Separation of Powers

Understanding that a government's role is to protect individual rights, but acknowledging that governments have historically been the major violators of these rights, a number of measures have been derived to reduce this likelihood. The concept of Separation of Powers is one such measure.

The premise behind the Separation of Powers is that when a single person or group has a large amount of power, they can become dangerous to citizens. The Separation of Power is a method of removing the amount of power in any group's hands, making it more difficult to abuse.

The US government has a partial Separation of Powers. It distinguishes between three groups. The Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. They are distinguished by the kind of power they wield. The Legislative branch has the ability to enact laws. The Executive branch has the ability to see those laws enforced. The Judicial branch has the ability to decide the guilt of a party, allowing punishment.

If a single group shared all three powers, they would have unlimited power. They could specify any law, arresting the 'criminal', and then decide that they are guilty. Through the Separation of Powers, though, no group can have more than one of these powers. Only through the combined use of all three can the government use force. By requiring the consent of all three branches, it increases the likelihood that the government will not initiate violent force.

There are many different ways to separate the powers of a government. The US, for instance, requires those that declare war to be different from those that execute the war. Only by combining the two can a war be declared. Also, the Legislative branch is further broken into two, each with separate responsibilities and powers. By any number of possible separations, a government can be made safer for its citizens.


Copyright 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands