What are the three organs of government?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The three organs of government are the legislative, executive, and judicial. I will describe the role of each below. Most governments around the world, though arranged differently, exercise these powers in one way or another. Since many governments around the world have a system of government not unlike those of the United States and Great Britain, I have used them as illustrative examples:

  • Legislative: This refers to making laws, a power usually vested in a representative assembly of some kind. In the federal government of the United States, Congress is the legislative branch. It is divided into two houses, each of which must approve potential legislation by a majority vote. In Great Britain, this power is held by Parliament.
  • Executive: The executive power is broadly defined as the power to enforce, or carry out, laws. In the United States, this power belongs to the President and the Executive Branch. In most countries, the actual work of enforcing laws is done by an enormous and complex bureaucracy which the President is tasked with supervising. In Great Britain and other parliamentary systems, the executive power is exercised by a number of ministers who head offices similar to those in the United States.
  • Judicial: The judicial branch basically interprets and applies laws, including the Constitution, through legal decisions. In the United States federal government, there is a judicial branch headed by a Supreme Court that mostly hears important constitutional cases on appeal. Beneath the Supreme Court there is a federal appeals court system and a district court system responsible for civil and criminal cases in federal law. In Great Britain, the judicial power is also held by a judiciary branch which has gradually become independent from Parliament (it was formally made independent in the 2000s.) 

Remember that in most governments, these powers can overlap. The President, for example, can issue executive orders that carry the power of law. Moreover, in the American system of government each branch is granted certain powers, or checks, over the others. The Presidential veto is one example of this power. 

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