The Constitution did not create three co-equal branches of the federal government

Something I heard on television this morning — a reference to the federal government’s “three co-equal branches” — prompts me to reiterate a point I’ve made here on several previous occasions:

Yes, the notion that the Constitution created three co-equal branches of government is an article of faith among most Americans.  It’s popularly viewed as the provision that gives us our system of checks and balances. But it’s not true. In reality, there’s no mention of “checks and balances” in the Constitution.

Most of the politicians who play the “co-equal” card (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both played it during their presidential campaigns of four years ago) intend to argue against any presumption that the presidency is pre-eminent.

But the fact is that the Founding Fathers did not create a system of co-equal branches of government. Rather, they intended for the legislative branch to be dominant, as is evidenced in the Federalist Papers and even in some of the arguments against ratification of the Constitution from people who wanted co-equal branches and regretted that they weren’t getting them.

Historian Garry Wills presents a convincing case against the “co-equal” theory — and against various other popular myths about the Constitution — in his 1999 book “A Necessary Evil,”

THIS GUY, too, raises a good argument against the theory of co-equal branches.

FOOTNOTE: Another problem in all of this is that the word “co-equal” is redundant — just as “co-conspirator” is.

And don’t get me started on the non-word “co-mingle.” The word is actually “commingle,” and it’s pronunced “cum-mingle.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *