The fundamental cause of the fiscal crisis lies in the Founding Fathers’ belief in the doctrine of the separation of powers. That doctrine has always been philosophically controversial.

Thomas Hobbes, writing during the English Civil War, opposed the separation of powers, believing that only a strong and unified central government could ensure peace. John Locke, for his part, was more concerned with curbing monarchical power and regarded the separation of legislative and executive powers as one way to do that.

Having fought against what they regarded as the tyranny of George III, the American revolutionaries wanted to ensure that no such tyranny could arise in the new nation that they were establishing. To do so, they wrote the doctrine of the separation of powers into its constitution.

As a result, neither the president nor Cabinet officials are members of the legislature, and they cannot be removed from office by a legislative majority. At the same time, the legislature controls the budget and the government’s ability to borrow. The potential for impasse is obvious.