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Mixed government, also known as a mixed constitution, is a form of government that integrated facets of government by democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy. Mixed government means that there are some issues (often defined in a constitution) where the state is governed by the majority of the people, in some other issues the state is governed by few, in some other issues by a single person (also often defined in a constitution). The idea is commonly treated as an antecedent of separation of powers.

Contents

Ancient Greek philosophers

Plato in his book The Republic divided governments into four basic types:

  • democracy - government by the many
  • oligarchy - government by the few (often called aristocracy, i.e. government by the best)
  • timocracy - government by socio-military complexes (i.e., the form of government used in Sparta)
  • monarchy/tyranny - government by the one

He found flaws with all of them and thus concluded that none were suitable systems of government. Aristotle largely embraced Plato's ideas and in his Politics three types (sans Timocracy) are discussed in detail. Aristotle views aristocracy to be the ideal form of government but he observes that none of the three are healthy and that states will cycle between the three forms in an abrupt and chaotic process known as the kyklos. In his Politics he lists a number of theories of how to create a stable government. One of these options is creating a government that is a mix of all three forms of government. For Aristotle the idea is only one of many and he pays only scant attention to it.

Polybius argued that most states have a government system that is composed of more than one of these basic principles, which then was called a mixed government system.

Roman Era

The ideal of a mixed government was popularized by Polybius who saw the Roman Republic as a manifestation of Aristotle's theory. Monarchy was embodied by the consuls, the aristocracy by the Senate, and democracy by the elections and great public gatherings of the assemblies. Each institution complements and also checks the others, presumably guaranteeing stability and prosperity. Polybius also describes Sparta as an earlier manifestation of this ideal. Polybius was very influential and his ideas were embraced by Cicero.

Renaissance and Enlightenment

Cicero became extremely well regarded during the Renaissance and many of his ideas were embraced. Polybius was also rediscovered and the positive view of mixed governments became a central aspect of Renaissance political science integrated into the developing notion of republicanism. Mixed government theories became extremely popular in the Enlightenment and were discussed in detail by Hobbes, Locke, Vico, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Kant. Apart from his contemporaries, only Montesquieu became widely acknowledged as the author of a concept of separation of powers (although he wrote rather on their "distribution").[citation needed]

According to some scholars the notion also influenced the writers of the United States Constitution who based the idea of checks and balances upon the ancient theory. The constitution of Britain during the Victorian Era with a Parliament composed of the Sovereign (monarchy), a House of Lords (oligarchy) and House of Commons (democracy) is a prime example of a mixed constitution in the 19th century.

Modern views

One school of scholarship, based mainly in the United States, felt that a mixed government was the central characteristic of a republic feeling that the U.S. has rule by the one (the President), the few (the Senate, which was originally supposed to represent the States), and the many (House of Representatives). According to Frank Lovett this school is largely defunct.[1]

Yet another school of thought in the United States says the Supreme Court has taken on the role of "The Best" in recent decades, offsetting the direct-election of senators and preserving the mixing of Monarchy, Democracy, Republic, Oligarchy, and Military divisions of the federal government and ensuring a continuing separation of authority.

See also

External links

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Simple English

Mixed government or mixed constitution, is a form of government that integrated different forms of government, like democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy. Mixed government means that there are some issues where the state is governed by the majority of the people, in some other issues the state is governed by few, in some other issues by a single person, often defined in a constitution. Today, this idea is commonly seen as a precursor to that of separation of powers.

Mixed governments were common in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.


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