Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.

—James Madison. Letter to Thomas Jefferson, New York, October 17, 1788.

A well devised constitution will recognize that every official has a natural tendency to exceed and abuse his authority. To counteract this natural propensity it has built into it checks and balances which work by:

  • not concentrating power in a single office;
  • giving officials the power, duty, and motive to curb the illegitimate activities of each other;
  • creating structures that make it difficult for officials to abuse their office, even if they want to.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove