Checks and balances (Cont.)
Under the system of checks and balances, each branch has primary authority to decide on certain kinds of issues, yet each branch often requires at least minimal voluntary cooperation from the other branches if its decisions and initiatives are to be successfully implemented. Since officeholders are assumed to be ambitious and jealous of their authority, policy cooperation and coordination across the various branches and levels of government can only be the product of hard bargaining and mutually acceptable delineation of authority -- therefore hopefully sustaining the constitutional separation of powers through maintaining a practical balance of power among rival powerholders. And since by virtue of the differing compositions of their constituencies the leading officeholders tend to be responsive to somewhat differing interest groups within society, the need for negotiated compromises among the various branches and levels of government in order to implement policy may also translate into a policy-making process that takes seriously into account the interests of many minorities along with those of majorities.
Criticisms of the separation of powers and checks and balances concepts point out that such arrangements make policy making more cumbersome and time consuming than it needs to be and that in fact it can result easily in a deadlock in which government is unable to take any action at all. Moreover, it is also said to be undemocratic, in that it places barriers to the absolute power of the majority to determine public policy by imposing on majorities the need to bargain with (and make concessions to) minorities that have managed to gain disproportionate influence on one or another branch or level of the federal system of multiple governmental institutions. For these reasons, political thinkers who see government as the primary instrumentality for the community to successfully combat or adjust to an on-going series of emergencies that have no other possible remedy tend to be very suspicious of such decentralized power arrangements. On the other hand, political thinkers that see society and the economy as largely self-regulating organisms that need relatively little in the way of new policy initiatives from government for their successful functioning tend to take a more favorable view of checks and balances.
[See also: separation of powers
, judicial review
, interest group
, pluralist theory