We continue our leisurely stroll through The Federalist with an extended look at Federalist numbers 47 through 51, which explain the key concept of the separation of powers—a phrase that is nowhere found in the text of the Constitution, but which is clearly implied by the design and structure of the text. But Madison and Hamilton leave nothing to chance, citing “the celebrated Montesquieu” as a theoretical authority, but drawing also on the mixed experience of the early state constitutions.

Next week we’ll take a detour and explain why the Progressive movement singled out the separation of powers as their chief point of attack on the Constitution.

For those who have the time and inclination to take in the text, you can also view the episode and its slides of Federalist excerpts at this YouYube link.

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  1. Boethius1261972 Inactive
    Boethius1261972
    @Boethius1261972

    Great podcast as usual, but it left we wondering about a couple claims made by Steve and Lucretia.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Plato in the Laws spend books IV, V, and VI setting up a regime by separating the respective government powers?  Also, I believe Steve said the notion that the rulers were subject to the laws was something relatively new at the time of the Founding.  However, in Laws book IV (715d) Plato states:  “I have now applied the term “servants of the laws” to the men usually said to be rulers, not for the sake of an innovation in names but because I hold that it is this above all that determines whether the city survives or undergoes the opposite.  Where the law itself is ruled over and lacks sovereign authority, I see destruction at hand for such a place.”  I’m not saying these ideas weren’t in some way perfected (maybe) by the Founders, just that it seems like they weren’t “discovered” by the Montesquieu or the “new political science”.  Am I way off base?  Were the Laws read by any of the Founders to your knowledge?

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  2. Quickz Member
    Quickz
    @Quickz

    I was curious, that part where @stevenhayward went “off topic” on the separation of powers – when he mentions that no member of Congress can be in the Executive – would that be one of the (many) reasons the Presidential Succession Act is unconstitutional for having the second in line the Speaker of the House? Maybe @johnyoo can give me the downlow on that – it seems wrong that the Legislature would assume the Executive instead of folks in the Executive branch. And can’t the Speaker be any citizen? That makes it even worse and more flawed. Right?

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  3. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Another tour de force.

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  4. Grendel Member
    Grendel
    @Grendel

    What is the so NPRish outro music?

    I’m not complaining. It’s much preferable to the absonant hip-hop or punk so many conservative podcasts use.

     

    • #4
  5. Grendel Member
    Grendel
    @Grendel

    Quickz (View Comment):

    I was curious, that part where @ stevenhayward went “off topic” on the separation of powers – when he mentions that no member of Congress can be in the Executive – would that be one of the (many) reasons the Presidential Succession Act is unconstitutional for having the second in line the Speaker of the House? Maybe @ johnyoo can give me the downlow on that – it seems wrong that the Legislature would assume the Executive instead of folks in the Executive branch. And can’t the Speaker be any citizen? That makes it even worse and more flawed. Right?

    The assumption is that the Speaker would resign before assuming the Presidency. The idea is to maintain democratic legitimacy, nearness to the channels of power, and presumption of experience and political support. 

    • #5
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