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Separation of Powers - Conversation Starter 1 - The Federalist No. 48, James Madison

...unless these departments be so far connected and blended as to give to each a constitutional control over the others, the degree of separation.require[d], as essential to a free government, can never in practice be duly maintained..[T]he powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments. It is equally evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the administration of their respective powers.

After discriminating, therefore, in theory, the several classes of power, as they may in their nature be legislative, executive, or judiciary, the next and most difficult task is to provide some practical security for each, against the invasion of the others.

What this security ought to be, is the great problem to be solved.

Focus Questions:

1. What do you think Madison means by "free government," and, how much do you think Americans value that ideal today?

2. Do you agree that if one branch of government had an "overruling influence" over how the others used their power, we couldn't have a "free government"? Why?

3. How well do you think the Constitution resolves the "problem" identified by Madison?

4. Do you think that the way the separation of powers really works today leaves one or more branches of government more vulnerable to invasion than another? If so, which ones, and how?