Ever hear of Polybius, the ancient Greek historian? Me neither, until today. He found the three popular forms of governance in his day to have elements of genius in each of them. So, he applied himself to thinking about how to take the admirable aspects of each system and make them work for the people in a constitutional government. (Common sense at work!)
From Polybius to Montesquieu to the Founders (with a push from John Adams), to our U.S. Constitution, we have our 16th Principle:
“The Government should be separated into three branches-legislative, executive, and judicial.”
Welcome, as we return to study Cleon Skousen’s principles of liberty. (Skousen, W. Cleon. The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Ideas That Changed the World. National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1981).
Skousen tells us that Polybius admired:
the strength of a monarchy to administer government
the wealth of the aristocracy to develop resources
the participation of the people in a democracy
Do you see what I’m seeing here? Executive branch to administer the government, the Senate to be a deliberative body, and the House representing the interests of the people. Montesquieu comes along and sees the necessity for the separation of powers. He proposes the executive, legislative (combining the upper and lower houses) and adds a judicial department.
We must note how our system of governance developed over time, with debate, and “trial and error” before we arrived at the Constitutional Republic our Founders gave to us. It was no easy task and not lightly or blindly developed. Yes, there were objections and fears along the way. Yes, heated discussions occurred. I believe we are the benefactors of years of wisdom to live under the Constitutional Republic we were given. Attempts to rearrange or amend our government to incorporate other failed systems is a set up for failure.
Skousen quotes John Adams in the closing page of this chapter by noting his (Adams’) goal, “to see rising in America an empire of liberty, and the prospect of two or three hundred millions of freeman, without one noble or one king among them.” So, Adams had the long view. We are one of the three hundred million he was talking about. Question is, can we do our part to remain a free people with the longest surviving Constitution in the world?
Understanding what we have been given is exercising Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.??