The much-hailed political device known as the ‘separation of powers’ is animalistic in nature. It originated from and is based on mistrust in man’s ability to handle power. If we look at how chimpanzees handle power and base our political system thereon, we would end up with dictatorship. Now, the only thing democracy did was split up the dictator into three ‘branches’ and let them check each other. The devised ‘checking mechanism’ is known as ‘checks and balances’.
There you have the basis of our glorious democracy! It works better than undivided dictatorship, but is s a far cry from civilized. It grew out of people’s bitter experience that power always tends to corrupt. Having accepted that as a given, they decided to split up power into three branches, which would for ever fight each other for power, none of them ever being able to obtain all of it. This constant checked power-struggle was seen as a safeguard against corruption.
Politics based on negative thinking
Thus we see that the very foundation of modern politics is negative, i.e. based on the corrupt side of human nature. The thinking is more or less: ‘People are animals and will always be animals. So, treat them like animals!’ The separation of powers is a negation of man’s basic nobleness, the notion that man is, or can be, more than an intelligent coyote. Its core assumption is that man is corrupt and cannot de-corrupt.
When the ‘founding fathers’ (French, American and Dutch) devised the democratic model, they decided – after a hard look at themselves – that it was impossible for man to outgrow his dark corrupt side. So instead of effectively dealing with it, they decided to accept it in all its ugliness. Accepting it, they invented ways to check and bridle it, not to sublimate it. Being based on the dark side of man’s corrupt nature the resulting democratic system is always prone to corruption, power-struggle and failure. It is the best we have so far, but it is not good.
The doctrine of the ‘separation of powers’ is like 3 lions fighting over one peace of meat. Instead of trying to turn the lions into vegans, the lions are chained to the wall with enough slack to reach the meat, but not each other. They will growl and fight, but can’t do each other any real harm. And none of them ever gets to eat all of the meat. This way power (the meat) is shared and balanced, whereas the three branches of government (the lions) will always remain power-hungry, for none of them can ever eat their fill.
This comparison hits at the heart of the matter. Defenders of the separation of powers doctrine will call it wise, for you simply cannot turn a lion into a vegan. Adherents of this view start from the premise that people (including themselves, of course!) are intelligent coyotes and will never evolve into something better. “You cannot change human nature!’, they argue. To this some people – who respect themselves a bit more – will answer: ‘Human nature can be changed and is in fact constantly being changed, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse’.
It’s the business of religion to change human nature (and thereby the world). Any religion that does not implicitly or explicitly purport to do so – working from the premise and conviction that the perfection of Man is possible – does not deserve the name. In this the concept of God helps, but it is not God that needs perfection. It is Man. This is why Alexander Pope wrote:
“Know then thyself, o Man, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man”.
The selected video is highly recommended. It refers to the doctrine of the separation of powers, but is not an exposé of it. It is the first part of a series of three on the political and economic trends historian/analyst Chalmers Johnson – writer of among others ‘Blowback; the Costs and Consequences of America Empire’ –, detects and foresees. Things always work out differently than people expect. Nevertheless, the video cannot fail to make you think long and hard not only about the difference between democracy and tyranny, but also about what the near future is likely to have in store for us. Unless, of course, the public – worldwide – wakes up in time.