Control of the Legislative Function by the Executive Is the Real Mark of Absolutism

The executive in society attempts to accumulate power to not only carry out the laws, but to interpret and make them as well.  The power of the executive is kept in check by the robust functioning of an independent judiciary on the one side and an independent legislative power on the other.  This was the original concept behind the form of government envisioned in the constitution of the United States with three separate branches of government providing checks and balances to one another.  Regardless of the theoretical balance between executive, judicial and legislative functions, there is the reality in operations that must be viewed and understood to appreciate when the executive is gaining excess power and creating an imbalance in the societal framework.  Even if the executive does not create laws by fiat, if it controls, de facto, the legislative function, it can cause laws to be adopted that cater to its desires for more control and autocratic power, or prevent laws that would circumscribe that power.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The king may get rid of the power of the priesthood, he may reduce his council to an instrument of his will or the nobility which they represent to a political and military support for his actions, but until he has got rid of the assembly or is no longer obliged to convoke it, … he cannot be the chief much less the sole legislative authority.  Even if he leaves the practical work of legislation to a non-political, a judicial body like the French Parliaments, he is bound to find there a centre of resistance.  Therefore the disappearance of the assembly or the power of the monarch to convoke it or not at his pleasure is always the real mark of his absolutism.  But when he has succeeded, when his decrees are laws, when he has got rid of or subordinated to himself all the other powers of the social life, there at that point of his highest success his failure begins; the monarchical system has fulfilled its positive part in the social evolution and all that is left to it is either to hold the State together until it has transformed itself or else to provoke by oppression the movement towards the sovereignty of the people.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 21, The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralisation and Uniformity, pg.. 185

Advertisements