Rule Of Law, Part 7 to blupete's Essay
The subject of power: what it is and how it is wielded is a subject I treat elsewhere. Enough, for our purposes in the writing of this introductory monograph on the law, to say that power, as Lord Acton pointed out, corrupts and in turn is misused; this is especially so when power is concentrated in the hands of a few, as it is in government. It was a French philosopher, Montesquieu (1689-1755) -- having spent time in England studying its political system, and, in particular, the writings of Locke -- who wrote, in his work, The Spirit of Laws (1748), that it was a necessity, in any proper constitution of a country, to compartmentalize the power of government. A written demonstration of Montesquieuian doctrine, the separation of powers, exists in the American Constitution, the framers of which, before setting quill to parchment, struggled much with the question and understood very well the inherent danger of government power.
The idea behind Montesquieu's doctrine is to prevent a tyrant from taking control by the use of the power that we have intentionally concentrated in the hands of our agents, those who run the government. Such power, so the doctrine goes, must be distributed to three groups of persons: those who make the law, those who enforce the law, and those who oversee the first two groups. Thus we have three branches of government wielding power: legislative, executive and judicial. In their functions, each is to be separated from the others. And, essentially, each group, as are all citizens, are subject to the same law, in the same way: this we have come to know as the Rule of Law.
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