On what basis does Locke believe that political power should be limited?
Upon reading Locke's Second Treatise Of Government it becomes apparent that he was
an advocate of the limitation of political power. Locke proposes a separation of power within
government as a means to satisfy this before the idea emerges in Montesquieu's writings (Gough
1973). Locke believed that governmental power should be vested in more than one institution in
order to safeguard against one institution having too great a degree of power. Locke's writing is a work against absolutism, which he saw as a sure road to tyranny. This is an issue which forms a firm basis of Locke's theory and will be discussed below.
Locke has taken the two principle rights man enjoys in the State of Nature, the right to interpret the Law of Nature for ourselves and the right to punish anyone who goes against it, and has given them two independent institutions (Ashcraft 1987). These institutions, while both designed to be working towards the common good, have come into being in Locke's system in such a way that society is protected against abuse of this system. Locke's assumption of mans "frailty leads him to include these insurance's against any man securing too great a degree of power. With the separation of power in Locke's system the Legislature oversee's the Executives job of policing the people while itself being dependant upon the confidence of the people. Although Lock states that this is a separation of convenience this really seems to be a side issue.
What is certain is that Locke makes it clear that the separate bodies do not share equal power. He show's the legislative power as being "not only the supreme power of the commonwealth, but sacred and unalterable in the hands where the community have once placed it (Locke para 134). This highlights the limitation of power that the executive is subject to. Once the legislature has in