Are There “Sources of Resilience” When the Separation of Powers Breaks Down?


  • Arjun Tremblay University of Alberta



Jacob Levy describes three variants of the separation of powers in the 31st Annual McDonald Lecture in Constitutional Studies, only one of which is germane to this reflection. The first variant he describes is based solely on the independence of the judiciary from both the executive and legislative branches of governments; consequently, this variant encompasses both presidential and parliamentary systems under its conceptual ambit. Another variant, which Levy attributes to Montesquieu, envisages the separation of powers between executive, judicial, and legislative branches as a way of allowing for the “pooled”1 rule of “the one” (i.e. monarch), “the few” (i.e. aristocrats), and “the many” (i.e. the people). Levy also describes a distinctly American variant of the separation of powers undergirded by a system of checks and balances. This variant was designed to ensure “mutual monitoring between executive and legislative”2 and it vests the legislative branch with the power to impeach the executive in order to “maintain effective limits on the political power and the political ambition of the president.”3