2 Matching Annotations
- Jul 2018
The liberal solution to the problem of limiting the powers of a democratic majority employed various devices. The first was the separation of powers—i.e., the distribution of power between such functionally differentiated agencies of government as the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. This arrangement, and the system of checks and balances by which it was accomplished, received its classic embodiment in the Constitution of the United States and its political justification in the Federalist papers (1787–88), by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Of course, such a separation of powers also could have been achieved through a “mixed constitution”—that is, one in which power is shared by, and governing functions appropriately differentiated between, a monarch, a hereditary chamber, and an elected assembly; this was in fact the system of government in Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution. The U.S. Constitution also contains elements of a mixed constitution, such as the division of the legislature into the popularly elected House of Representatives and the “aristocratic” Senate, the members of which originally were chosen by the state governments. But it was despotic kings and functionless aristocrats—more functionless in France than in Britain—who thwarted the interests and ambitions of the middle class, which turned, therefore, to the principle of majoritarianism.
Group Contemporary pol T
The early liberals, then, worked to free individuals from two forms of social constraint—religious conformity and aristocratic privilege—that had been maintained and enforced through the powers of government. The aim of the early liberals was thus to limit the power of government over the individual while holding it accountable to the governed. As Locke and others argued, this required a system of government based on majority rule—that is, one in which government executes the expressed will of a majority of the electorate. The chief institutional device for attaining this goal was the periodic election of legislators by popular vote and of a chief executive by popular vote or the vote of a legislative assembly.
Group Contemporary Pol T