The original Constitution protected liberty by establishing institutions, structures, and processes that limit government power. The design holds the powers separate yet intertwines them with checks and balances. Rather than claim to solve the problem of human nature, the Founders accepted the inevitability of conflict and sought to constitutionalize it, that it might not play out in the streets. They further innovated in creating a system of federalism that has redefined the very meaning of the word.Download the Printable Curriculum
What Separation of Powers Means for Constitutional Government
Judging from their conduct in recent years, the branches of our national government seem to be suffering a prolonged identity crisis. It used to be expected, roughly speaking, that the Congress would pass laws, the President would execute them, and the Supreme Court would interpret them in individual cases. This was the political framework established by the Constitution and adhered to for the greater part of our political history. Increasingly, however, it is not the way the federal government operates. And as departures from the Constitution’s plan grow more common, a permanent derangement of the American political system becomes more probable.Read The Heritage Foundation's Report
How the Electoral College Works
The Framers of our Constitution invented a system that would establish a democracy while protecting minority rights. They created the Electoral College to protect the residents of the smaller states, and they rejected government by simple majority because plebiscites historically have been the tool of dictatorships, not democracy.Read Cato Institute's Article
Congress, the Courts and the Constitution
America is a democracy in the most fundamental sense of that idea: authority, or legitimate power, rests ultimately with the people. But the people have no more right to tyrannize one another through democratic government than government itself has to tyrannize the people. When they constituted us as a nation by ratifying the Constitution and the amendments that have followed, our ancestors gave up only certain of their powers, enumerating them in a written constitution. We have allowed those powers to expand beyond all moral and legal bounds—at the price of our liberty and our well-being. The time has come to return those powers to their proper bounds, to reclaim our liberty, and to enjoy the fruits that follow.Download PDF from The Cato Institute
On the First Principles of Federalism
The question the people and the states are increasingly putting to Washington is simply this: By what authority do you rule us as you do? That is a question that takes us to first principles of a kind the Supreme Court itself revisited last April when it found, for the first time in nearly 60 years, that the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce is not the power to regulate anything and everything.Read Cato Institute's Article
Federalism DIY: 10 Ways for States to Check and Balance Washington
The federal government is tightening its control over the 50 states and the lives of every American. The U.S. Constitution, however, says states are supposed to be equal partners with the federal government. State sovereignty — allowing each state to control its own affairs — is the cornerstone of that equal partnership and critical to protecting Americans’ freedom.Read Goldwater Institute's Report
Democracy, Tyranny, and Liberty
Do democracies promote freedom? According to Prof. Aeon Skoble, it is definitely possible for democracies to promote freedom, but it is not a guarantee. This is due to a few flaws inherent in democratic systems:
- Majority belief in something does not necessarily mean that it’s true.
- Majorities are capable of being just as tyrannical as kings
- Historically, democracies have elected tyrannical leaders.