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What's the difference between Checks and Balances and Seperation of Powers?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    Separation of Powers is a model of government in which different parts of the government are responsible for different functions; in the US, these different areas are legislative, executive and judicial.

    Checks and balances is a means of trying to ensure that no one of those areas can operate completely on its own, in the US.

    I don't know if political scientists would say they are one and the same, but they certainly must both operate to maintain the republic our founders envisioned.

    A nice diagram of checks and balances is found at:

    http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/Lesson_13_Notes.h...

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  • manx l
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Think of it as separate institutions sharing power. Each institution of government (executive, legislative, judicial) does not depend for its power on another. The Congress is not named and cannot be dismissed by the President. They each have separate and independent powers.

    However, to govern and get anything done they must work with each other and require the action of the other to make thing work. Congress can pass laws but cannot implement them. The president must execute the laws faithfully as passed by Congress but is limited by the amount of money passed appropriated by Congress.

    The two are different concepts but are very closely related. The first refers to the institutions, the second to a method of governance.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I think ...

    They somewhat overlap, but the 'Checks and Balances' doctrine refers to the ability of one branch to curtail the acts of another. For example: the legislative branch has the power to make laws, but the judicial branch has the power to strike them down if the legislative branch oversteps their bounds (if law is unconstitutional).

    The 'Separation of Powers' doctrine refers more to the fact that the individual branches have specific powers which only those branches possess. For example, going back to the legislative/judicial branches, the judical branch can't enact laws (this gets more complicated with the 'common law' ... but we're talking in general) because that power is reserved for the legislative branch. Likewise, the legislative branch (technically) can't deal with foreign policy or enforce laws because that power is reserved for the executive branch.

    Another example of the Separation of Powers docrine in play is the 'political question' doctrine that courts (judicial branch) sometimes apply when they are ruling on cases. Under that doctrine the courts will not rule on a case where they think that the ruling will interfere with a power that is reserved in another branch - ex. president's power dealing with respect to foreign policy.

    [This all gets much merkier and more complicated, because in practice the powers do overlap. More than that, certain branches have powers over things you would think would be reserved for another (ex. the legislative branch has some powers over federal courts which you would think are part of the judicial branch)].

    Source(s): Personal Knowledge [Law School]
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Two ways of saying the same thing: No branch of government has [or is supposed to have] the power to act unilaterally with out at least advising or getting consent from the other two.

    Source(s): Read the Constitution and restore the Republic: vote Ron Paul for President in '08
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