Horizontal Divisions of Power
• There is an idea that a government can oppose itself in constitutional law
• Separation of power
• Challenge was how to create a Republican system that is energetic and vigorous but will
still escape all the evil of the Monarchy
• One of the top ten quotes in comparative constitutional list
o "Frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this
country, by their conduct and example to decide the important question, whether
societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from
reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their
political constitutions on accident and force.
• This was a system of accident, British sovereignty
• Parliament became empowered
• Cabinet system of government gradually emerged over the course of
• Perceived that they are living under an arbitrary system without force
• How do we create political system?
o 3 things that governments are based on:
• Reflection and choice
Upon reflection, according to what master principle should the
power be organized in a political community?
Principle: Reacting not only to their political privilege, there is a
separation of power that is a master principle that they talk about
What is this system of checks and power? How do we divide
power in the political community? Is it enough that we have a constitution
and write down things?
• So and so is in charge of this or that, etc
Congress will pass laws and president will have wars
Need to have a system of separation of power, write down who is
in charge of what to keep each other in check, operates under the
assumption that writing down these paper walls entrenching, organizing
power, etc. is not enough, we also need to (in the constitution) create a
mechanism, constitution is not just a remind, it is a machine that
generates political power and channels political power and blocks political
• We speculate, what is the idea behind checks in balances?
What further idea can be deduced?
Why do we think checks in balances would be effective?
A pathology of the idea and a system that runs 'wild' -> levers
come to a gridlock
All governments derive their legitimacy from people, excs. Are
elected by the people
It's not the matter of them not being elected by the people, it is the
assumption that the legislative would control each other
What do they fear more? -> do they fear more monarchy or more
Part of the answer in Federalist 51 • "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,
constitution may be a reflection on human nature to control abuses
of government, if men were angels, no governments would be
necessary, the great difficulty lies in this, enable the government to
control the government"
Hobbes had an issue -> civil war, federalists thought we could
tweak the idea of constitution
• John Adams -> our ambition can be made to work in favour
or for the common good
• Government can be kept in check
• Ambitious people can be one of the best checks, but they
need institutions and tools at their disposal
• In late 18th century, we have Benard Mendavle, arguing
that luxury and the pursuit of it is very contusive and good for
process because artisans and tradesmen, productive occupation
would arise and aggregate good would increase that way
• Men of their age so to speak
System that they created gives independent means and has come
to be known as the presidential system of government
The defining feature is the head of state and head of
• In the US what is the relationship between the legislative
and the executive?
• How are they linked in terms of mutual responsibilities?
Exc. Holds the power
• Is there a relationship of political responsibility between the
two? Yes. To keep the president in check, politically
• Do not mistake political responsibility and criminal
• The body that does the impeaching is the house of
• Talking about political responsibility, keeping president in
check, it is not the responsibility
Would it be possible for a shutdown to occur in Canada?
• Vote of non-confidence, if PM does not have the
confidence of the House, there is a re-election
• Two bodies are linked together in responsibility
There is no constitutional mechanism to do different things
The gridlock that we've seen by the government (prorogation) is
imagined in different systems
Who is more legitimate in presidential system? The president?
House of representatives or the senate?