Separation of Powers

  • Montesquieu (Spirit of Laws)
  • Heavily associated with rule of law (a system where the rights and liberties of the individual are protected by restricting the power of those in power through law, preventing its abuse)
  • A model of distributing governmental power within a democracy
  • 3 functions, or arms, or government (executive, legislative and judicial), are lodged in three independent bodies/institutions
  • Legislative – makes laws; executive – ensures laws are enforced; judiciary – interprets laws
  • No one branch has supreme power

The accumulation of all powers Legislative, Executive, Judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

James Madison, 4th President of the USA

  • Although each arm has separate functions, checks and balances exist between each branch so that they can hold each other to account
  • This means that sometimes powers may be shared between institutions
  • The independence of each branch is conserved
  • If there are too many checks and balances, it can sometimes causes conflict between branches (gridlock)

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition


There is no liberty yet if the power to judge is not separated from the legislature and executive power



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