[FOUNTAIN]From Locke, a good lesson to rememberPrince William of Orange crossed to Dover, England, from the Netherlands on Nov. 5, 1688 to become the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. King James II had thrown the Great Seal of England into the Thames River and fled. There was no need to recover the seal because the monarchy’s absolute rule was virtually over. This was the last scene of the so-called Glorious Revolution, which concluded a revolution by citizens.
John Locke was the one who had established the philosophy of the Glorious Revolution. In 1690, he published “Two Treatises on Civil Government,” which he had finished writing before the revolution. From defining liberty and equality as God-given human rights to the concept of the citizens embodying the sovereignty of a nation, Locke laid the foundation for politics and philosophy for Western democracy.
One of Locke’s iron laws is the separation of powers. In order to guarantee the citizens’ rights, the state power must be divided into the legislative and the executive branches. His theory meant breaking down the monarchy’s monopoly on power. The legislature elected by the people is naturally the center of the power. The executive branch is an administrative organization that checks and balances the lawmaking branch, which represents the citizens.
It was the French philosopher, Montesquieu, who took Locke’s idea to another level and developed the separation of the three powers. In his 1748 book, “The Spirit of Laws,” he claimed that those with power would inevitably abuse it, and therefore there should be a means to limit power with power. He emphasized that independence was required among the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
It was in an extension of the separation of power that judges and prosecutors shared the judicial power after the French Revolution. If a judge had to prove the charges against an accused, it would be hard for him to make an unbiased decision. In order to let the bench focus on making the fairest decision, the prosecutors were given the power to indict criminals.
The plan to establish a separate agency to investigate high-ranking officials’ corruption has raised a debate. We should try to make sure power is not monopolized and government agencies are independent and capable of checking one other.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.