Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 67

separation of powers - Writings of Montesquieu, Separation of powers and Presidentialism, Checks and balances

systems judiciary government executive

A political doctrine, associated with the 18th-c philosopher Montesquieu, who argued that, to avoid tyranny, the three branches of government (legislature, executive, and judiciary) should be separated as far as possible, and their relationships governed by checks and balances. The US Constitution is a practical example of an attempt at separation of powers. Parliamentary systems such as that of the UK do not have a complete separation, as the heads of the executive (ie government ministers) sit as members of the legislature, as does the Lord Chancellor. Nonetheless, most systems claim independence of the judiciary.

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