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Understanding the Government of the United States

By Noreen Gunnell

Learning about the system of government in the United States involves studying philosophies on government, the Constitution, and the three branches of power and decision-making. What motivated and inspired the Founding Fathers and Framers must also be examined.

A Look Inside Our Country's Mind

The system of government in the United States is bicameral, a republic, and a representative democracy. The American government United States is many layered and equipped with various checks on power. The three branches of the Federal Government, (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial), function independently yet complement, influence, and balance each other. Most importantly, each individual branch has the means to prevent either of the other branches from becoming too powerful.

Established by the Constitution, the government in the United States is a system of law. The original laws are those set forth by the Constitution of the United States and are called constitutional laws. Laws other than constitutional laws are created and changed within the legislative branch, signed or vetoed within the executive branch by the President, and upheld or not by the judicial branch; in some cases, an executive order by the President or a regulation created by a department within the executive branch create a new law. The latter are referred to as administrative laws. Further, the Constitution itself was written with the possibility of amendment. Each state also has its own constitution, legislative body, and court system. The states and their governments are bound together by Federalism.

Fully understanding all of this involves examining the underlying principles this country was built upon, the framework created in the Constitution, and the three individual branches of government.

Building Blocks: Ideas, Philosophies, and Principles

The Founding Fathers and Framers did not live in a vacuum. Their opinions and decisions grew out of personal experiences with and exposure to different theories of government and various philosophies. Among other things, the type of government established in the United States was influenced by philosophers, English history and documents such as the Magna Carta.

The Constitution

The constitution lays out the framework of American government and delineates the powers of the three branches of government. It establishes representation and provides a method for less populous states to be on equal terms with heavily populated ones. The foresight of the framers allowed them to see that the document would have to adapt with the growing nation.

The Branches of Governement

The U.S. government is divided into three independent branches. The constitution designed the three factions so that each would function separately and without dominance over the others. Each has its own purpose and powers but they are not limitless; the ability to stop, or "check" each other ensures this.

The Legislative Branch

The Executive Branch

The Judicial Branch

Additional Material on the U.S. Government

Learn more about the way government operates in the United States with these interesting articles.

The American Government is a combination of the Federal Government and fifty separate state systems. Its many levels are independent yet interactive, separate but also connected. And, it’s always changing and adapting. Understanding how it all works will not only help you keep track of this evolving entity, it will enable you to take an active part in your government.

There are a couple television movies worth checking out if you'd like to see history enacted. Back in the late Seventies, a mini-series called The Bastard featuring the major TV stars of that time playing the roles of Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and others was certified by the National Education Association. A recent mini-series on The History Channel called Sons of Liberty offered its own take on the events leading up to our nation's independence. You may enjoy following up your reading by watching one of these television offerings.