How Does the Government Work?
When the founding fathers designed the United States government they considered how they would make sure that it would work well. The first goal was to design a government that would not be unfair.
The first time they tried the government was too weak because there was no one who could make sure that people would follow the laws. The government could make laws, but no one had to follow them.
So the Constitution was written. Its first duty was to make a fair government. They made the system of Checks and Balances to make the government fair. Checks and Balances is how the three parts of the government work together to run the country.
First we will look at the roles of the different branches of government. Think of a tree with three large branches, these are the three branches of the government. But tree branches have even smaller branches, these are the other parts that help these parts of the government.
The Legislative Branch
The United States is a representative democracy. In this kind of government a few people-out of everyone in the country-are elected to the legislature. In the United States, this group is called the US Congress.
Congress is made up of two parts: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives has a number of members to represent each state based on how many people are in that state. Every ten years a census is taken and everyone in the United States is counted. This is how they decide how many Representatives there should be per state.
Each person in Congress can be seen as a little branch on the larger Legislative Branch.
The Senate only has 100 members, two per state. If the country got a new state there would be two more Senators, so there would be 102. But the last time a state was added to the United States was over 60 years ago, so there will only be 100 Senators for a while.
The Executive Branch
The Executive Branch is tasked with making sure that everyone listens to the laws that Congress makes. The President is elected by citizens who live in the United States. The smaller branches on the Executive Branch are called the Cabinet. The Cabinet is in charge of the day-to-day work in running the government. The President is in charge of bigger problems.
The Supreme Court
The third branch of the United States government is the Supreme Court.
Congress and the President are elected by the people and they make sure things are fair for the people, but the Supreme Court is there to make sure that the law agrees with the constitution.
The smaller branches that come off of the larger branch are smaller courts that deal with smaller problems. The Supreme Court makes decisions for the whole country.
The Supreme Court also decides whether or not something that either Congress or the President does is legal.
Checks and Balances
The government's job is to make laws that are legal and to make sure everyone obeys them. This happens through the system of checks and balances.
Congress will come up with an idea for a law, called a bill, and vote on it. If enough people in Congress say that they want the bill to become a law by voting for it they send it to the President.
The President decides whether or not he likes the bill. If he does he can sign it. By signing it, it becomes a law and he now must make sure that everyone in the country follows that rule.
If someone thinks that the law is not legal the Supreme Court will look at it. They can decide whether or not it is legal.
This system, where three different sets of the government look at each other's work to see if it is the best for the country has been the United States system for over 200 years. So far it has worked pretty well!
Learn more about the 44 Presidents of the United States:
Learn more about how laws are made in the United States:
Learn more about the different branches of government:
Learn more about how Presidents get elected:
Learn more about the Supreme Court:
Contact your senator:
Learn more about the Legislative Branch:
Did you know that states have a different but similar government to the United States? Find out about how your state's government works here: