• Video

A Democratic Version of Britain’s Mixed Regime

How does the American government resemble the government of Great Britain? Professor Steven Calabresi explores how the Founders drew from their knowledge and experience of both British government and the local colonial governments. While the separation of powers in the Constitution looks similar to the British parliamentary system, the Founders ingeniously introduced democratic elections to hold the governmental parties accountable to the people. https://youtube.com/watch?v=TJhNCaFADws


There is an interesting thing, which is that while the framers endorse the separation of powers, in the vesting clauses of Article 1, Article 2, and Article 3, when one looks at the actual institutions that the Constitution creates, we find that they drew heavily on British antecedents and colonial antecedents. And so the United States, underneath its separation of powers, is also a democratic version of Britain's mixed regime. So for example, the executive power is vested in one president, and the president has many but not all the powers that King George III had. The power of the few, or the aristocracy, is vested in the Senate, and Supreme Court justices. And then the House the Representatives is directly elected by the people and reflects the power of the many. But the framers did something ingenious to the British constitutional regime, which is - they did it, and it was done actually over the course of decades by the American people after the American founding, so that today we the people elect the one president ourselves through the mechanism of the electoral college, which almost always gives victory to the popular vote winner. We the people directly elect US senators, who are among the few aristocrats. But it's the many who pick which of the few aristocrats get to be aristocrats. The president and the senate together pick Supreme Court justices. And the people make their wishes known on that in presidential and senatorial elections. So the United States is one of the most perfect democracies in the world in that almost every entity in the government is accountable in some way or another to the people. The power is divided, not only through the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, but also among the one, the few, and the many who the people all get to elect at different staggered intervals of time.

Related Content