[thechat] Why strong leadership sucks

martin.p.burns at uk.pwcglobal.com martin.p.burns at uk.pwcglobal.com
Thu Oct 11 08:32:42 CDT 2001

Memo from Martin P Burns of PricewaterhouseCoopers

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Yup - those checks and balances are essential to ensure
that the executive branch can't act repressively.

And to do that, the executive branch answers to the legislature
and judiciary, not the other way round. If the executive can't
pursuade the other branches of its case, it can't simply disagree
and implement stuff anyway.

If you only listen to the legislature when it agrees with you, and
enact what you want when it disagrees then you are back in
pre Magna Carta despotism[1].

Constitutionality and democratic scrutiny are required in a
free society of any kind.


The roots of Magna Carta were that Edward Plantagenet
had implemented a set of reforms which established the principle
that the law was a separate institution, not merely an expression
of the king's petty will.

When his son, John, became king, he acted as he wanted, setting
unjust taxes, taking land and attacking those who stood against
him. The barons of England saw things very differently, and reasoned
thus: "If the law is an independent thing, then the king should
also be subject to it"

Because the barons collectively were richer and more powerful than
John, they forced him to sign Magna Carta - a contract between them
and him. Now this wasn't a constitution in the US mould, guaranteeing
freedoms for all - it was an agreement essentially that the king wouldn't
steal the baron's property any more. However, it did establish the absolute
principle that everyone, even the king, is subject to the laws and customs
of the land.

This is generally reckoned to be the point at which England passed from
despotism to monarchy. A similar scale of watershed happened with the
Act of Settlement (1695 or so) when the monarchy agreed to become a
nominal figurehead, entirely subject to the will of Parliament and with no
political influence whatsoever. This was the close of the Divine Right
of Kings to govern in any way.

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Sent by:  thechat-admin at lists.evolt.org

To:   thechat at lists.evolt.org
Subject:  Re: [thechat] Why strong leadership sucks

> Democracy and collective decisionmaking: Good Things,
> especially when a crisis encourages over-reaction and
> fuzzy thinking.

True. I'm concerned about the potential abridgement of civil liberties, but
frankly I'm not *that* concerned. We do have judicial review here, and
unconstitutional laws are routinely thrown out by the courts. People
(including me) bitch about SCOTUS, but generally I think they routinely
the right calls on matters of civil liberties.

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