Why and How Have Liberals Supported the Fragmentation of Power

Topics: Liberalism, Democracy, Separation of powers Pages: 3 (837 words) Published: November 26, 2012
Why and how have liberals supported the fragmentation of political power? (15)

Liberals are concerned about power, most basically, because power constitutes a threat to liberty. Their concern about concentrations of power is rooted in their emphasis upon individualism and its implication that human beings are rationally self- interested creatures. Egoism determines that those who have the ability to influence behaviour of others are inevitably inclined to use that ability for their own benefit and therefore at the expense of others. The greater the concentration of power, the greater will be the scope of rulers to pursue self-interest and, thus, the greater corruption. Lord Acton stated "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." behind Acton’s famous quote about power and corruption, he points out the liberal belief that, since human beings are individuals and therefore egoistical, they are bound to use power - the ability to influence the behaviour of others to benefit themselves and they will use, or abuse, others in the furtherance of that goal. In essence, the greater the power the greater the scope for using and abusing others in the pursuit of self-seeking ends. Such thinking has shaped liberalism in a number of ways. In particular it has encouraged them to endorse the principle of limited government brought through constitutionalism and democracy. Liberals thus support, for example, codified constitutions, bills of rights, the separation of powers, federalism or devolution, as well as regular, free and fair elections, party competition and universal suffrage. Constitutionalism delivers limited government either by legally ring-fencing government (e.g., codified constitutions and bills of rights or fragmenting government power so creating a network of checks and balances (e.g., the separation of powers, bicameralism and federalism). Democracy delivers limited government because it bases...
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