As I look back on this past week, I have to summarize it in one word: crisis.
Domestically we face a constitutional crisis with a president who doesn’t believe he must adhere to our fundamental system of governance. If you have some time, take a read through or refresh yourself on the “Spirit of the Laws” by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu in 1748.
In that simple treatise, Montesquieu presented the idea of the separation of powers, checks and balances, and coequal branches of government. These ideas were adopted by our Founding Fathers, more specifically, James Madison, as he wrote the Constitution of the United States and the Federalist Papers – which I believe President Obama, the self-proclaimed constitutional scholar, has never read.
Montesquieu said, “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty. The same monarch or senate would enact tyrannical laws and execute them in a tyrannical manner.”
Montesquieu believed liberty was impossible if the judicial branch was not separated from the legislative and executive powers. He believed if the judiciary were combined with legislative power, individual life and liberty would be vulnerable to arbitrary control. Even worse, if the judiciary were combined with executive powers, judges would be oppressive and violent.
In the worst case of all, the same person or body would control all three powers.
Montesquieu, a champion of individual dignity and liberty, raised his voice against the despotic rule of the Bourbon monarchy of Louis XIV who boasted, “I am the state.” Montesquieu knew well that “constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority until he is confronted with limits.”
Read more at AllenBWest.com.
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