The Federalist Papers: No. 51

Role of US Government in The Control of Factions and in The System of Checks and Balances Set Up in The Constitution

The US government was restructured so that there were three entities accorded separate powers. The separate branches were supposed to work together and also ensure that none had more power than the other. The framers of government separated it into three entities: judicial, executive and legislative branches through division of tasks among the three. They monitored each other’s activities for transparency and to ensure the voters had a say in enacting of policies such as ruling against unfit leaders in the government. In addition to separating them, each of the branches was given power to control/check the actions of the other in reasonable ways, to keep each branch of government from overstepping, which would consequentially render the federal government too powerful, which is where balancing comes in. James Madison defines a faction as number of citizens who are united by a common goal of interest which is averse to the rights of other citizens (“The Federalist Papers: No. 10”). Federalism has helped in controlling factions and in the system of checks and balances in different aspects either economically or politically.

The idea of checks and balances can be explained by how the government is divided into three entities with separate powers. James Madison argues for the system of balancing in Federalist Papers No. 51 by stating the most reasonable way to keep the government in check is to structure it in a manner that political leaders compete with each other. The executive is headed by the president, the legislative branch which is Congress and the judicial branch which is the supreme court. The legislative branch is charged with budgeting as well as creating and passing laws whereas the executive branch is accorded the duty of executing and running the government, based on laws passed by the Congress. The judiciary is then given power to decide whether the actions of the legislature appear constitutional or not. An example is where the legislative branch controls the budget so the executive cannot spend however they please to and the judiciary can check the other branches and interpret laws where required. Therefore, these branches have a mutual relationship to keep each other on the right path. The separation of power and the idea of checks and balances creates a platform for multiple opportunities to influence policies and the actions of government. As such, citizens can engage directly with their leaders to address matters. The public plays a big role in deciding which laws get funded or passed. Elections influence the government in a great way since the public acts based on their opinion in different matters concerning elections, including funding where people are free to give donations or show their support depending on their interests.

The period between 1933-1964 marked a growth of social programs from the great depression and to a period of creative federalism since 1964 in which the federal government is actively involved in the problem of state and local governments (qtd. in Inman and Rubinfield 44). General revenue sharing from the federal government to the state was inspired by Heller and Pechman who feared that continued federal taxation would lead to federal budget surpluses and a fiscal drag in the economy. As a result, they suggested sharing of these excesses with the needy state and local sector (qtd. in Inman and Rubinfield 44). Oates explains that the making of outputs to local circumstances will generally bring about higher levels of well-being than a centralized action to bring a uniform level of output across all jurisdictions (qtd. in Inman and Rubinfield 45). This justifies decentralization to small jurisdictions.

In conclusion, the separation of government has helped in controlling its power, or rather, keeping its action in check, and has allowed involvement of citizens in policy making and implementing of the constitution. Federalism has ensured healthy competition between different branches of government for them to run in a constitutional manner.

Works Cited

Dahl, Robert A. A Preface to Democratic Theory. University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Inman, Robert P., and Daniel L. Rubinfeld. “Rethinking Federalism.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 11, no. 4, 1997, pp. 43-64.

Khan Academy. “Principles of American Government.”

   Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

“The Federalist Papers: No. 10.” Avalon Project – Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Accessed 15 Feb. 2019.

“The Federalist Papers: No 51.” Avalon Project – Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School-Lillian Goldman Law Library, 2008,

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