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The Edmonton Libertarian Meetup Group Message Board › Either the State is Free, or We Are

Either the State is Free, or We Are

Jeff GeorgeLucas G...
user 73687572
Edmonton, AB
Post #: 1
Yesterday as I was driving I heard Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson on the Dave Rutherford show, talking about Alberta’s budget. He said something very telling near the end.

Dave Rutherford asked him about his private member's motion to limit annual government spending increases to a function of population growth plus inflation. Critics of the motion, explained Anderson, object that this ties the hands of government in their ability to spend. To this, Anderson replied: "Yes. We need to tie the government's hands. There is no incentive for the government to restrain itself, because it is spending someone else's money. To balance the budget, we need to tie the government's hands so that they cannot spend anymore."

Finally! I've been dying to hear a politician say that.

Most people seem to have the idea that, in a functional political system, the executive branch (be it led by a premier, president or monarch) must have a high degree of freedom. There’s a word for that kind of system – dictatorship.

In reality, if a free society is to exist at all, the executive has to be limited, and often severely. There must exist mechanisms by which a governing person or party can be abruptly stopped from achieving their goals. If no such mechanism exists, that political system is a dictatorship. The governing party will not likely become a tyranny overnight – it is easier to impose tyranny one small measure at a time – but if nothing and no one can stop them, the battle against tyranny has already been lost.

In the American political system, the mechanism for checking executive power is separation of powers. The three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) have distinct roles and cannot infringe on the jurisdiction of another branch. At the same time, each branch has a mechanism to impede the progress of the other, which ensures that no one branch has ultimate authority over the other. While the President is considered the “leader” of the United States government, in reality he leads only one branch – he does not have authority over lawmakers or the courts.

The Canadian system features the fusion of powers, in which the leaders of the executive branch (premiers, prime ministers and cabinet ministers) are chosen from among the legislative branch. This group of ministers has both executive powers (by virtue of being cabinet ministers) and legislative powers (by virtue of being members of the legislative body).

It is interesting to note two key differences between the way the two systems are portrayed and the way they actually function. First, while the American President is considered the “leader” of the United States government, in reality he leads only one branch, the executive – he does not have authority over lawmakers or the courts. Similarly, the Canadian Prime Minister leads only one branch of government, and while he is a member of the legislative branch, he wields no more legislative power than any other member of the legislative branch; each legislator can only cast one vote.

Second, while the United States holds popular elections to elect the head of the executive branch, no such process exists in the Canadian parliamentary system. The Canadian Prime Minister received no “direct mandate” from the people of Canada. He enjoys his position not through election by popular vote, but by enjoying the confidence of the legislative branch.

In other words, the executive branch holds its position only as long as the legislature approves; if that approval is withdrawn through a non-confidence motion, one of two things happens: either another member of the legislature can approach the Governor General and say “I believe I am able form an executive that will command the confidence of the legislature”, in which case the Governor General may give approval and the legislator then selects cabinet ministers and seeks the approval of the legislature by passing a budget. If the budget passes, the new executive branch has the confidence of the legislature and is allowed to govern.

If no one in the current body of legislators is able to form an executive which commands the confidence of the legislature, the legislature is dissolved in its entirety, a new legislative body is elected by the people, and the leader of the party with the most seats in the legislature will seek to form an executive and survive a confidence motion.

In this way, while the Canadian and American systems differ in how executive and legislative powers are divided, being fused in the former and separated in the latter, both systems actually have the same goal – to prevent either branch of government from wielding too much power.

As we saw above, in Canada executive power is checked by allowing the legislative branch to remove an executive branch of which they disapprove. At the same time, the legislative body cannot risk abusing this power because, if another executive cannot be formed, the legislative body itself will be removed as well, and legislators will have to seek re-election.

Most important of all: in the Canadian system any money bill introduced in the legislature, especially a budget, is automatically a confidence motion. If the legislative body does not approve of how much or where the executive branch wishes to spend money, the executive by definition does not have the confidence of that legislature and is automatically removed.

This brings me back to Rob Anderson’s comments. Critics of the Wildrose motion apparently feel that it is wrong to restrict the ability of the executive to govern. Yet it is precisely these restrictions which prevent Canada from becoming a dictatorship. Arguments against checking the power of the executive branch are ipso facto arguments for tyranny.

This is especially true given that the executive branch poses the greatest threat to freedom. While the laws which are passed by the legislative branch may be oppressive, the enforcement of those laws falls to the executive branch. The most dangerous features of any state are always the executive features: the police, the military, the powers of taxation and the prosecution of criminals. Historically, there are only two options: either the executive’s hands are tied and the citizens enjoy freedom, or else the executive enjoys freedom and the citizens’ hands are tied.

So, we ought to ask, if the legislature won’t perform their constitutional duty to check the power of the executive by controlling the government purse, who will?

And if the very idea that the executive branch should not be limited in what money it is allowed to spend is so unpopular, it is time to ask ourselves: are we truly living in a free country?

(reprinted from http://www.dominandi....­)
Wade R.
user 10834697
Edmonton, AB
Post #: 2
Realistically there are no free countries nor have there ever been. Freedom is a relative comparison. Most people think of freedom as being 'free' to do this or that but freedom is really 'from' something, namely oppression or violation of ones rights. I agree that power has to be checked but party politics has for the most part removed the checks and balances in western politics. The ruling party 'whipped' into action is a de facto dictatorship, even the courts have been alined with political ideology these days. So are we free? Certainly not. Do we have a greater degree of freedom in a more tolerant country here in Canada? I believe so.
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