"At the heart of liberalism is a fear of unchecked power."

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“At the heart of liberalism is a fear of unchecked power.”

“An illiberal tendency of our new government is the move towards government by regulation. Our government is determined to draft legislation which imbues the relevant minister with wide and unchecked powers to make regulations which have the force of law. In practice, this amounts to government by executive decree. We know this odious creature well, as a particular favourite of the old National Party. The ANC are not naïve to the fact that delegated legislation removes the scrutiny of Parliament and opposition parties from the law-making process.”

Tony Leon, South African liberal

A simple definition of power could be the ability both to demand that people do something, and to say how a thing should be done or organised. Authority, however, is where power is granted by consent; and when an individual or committee is said to have authority, the reason that justifies this authority is known as legitimacy. In general, the government has authority because it has legitimacy through: tradition, as Parliament has existed for hundreds of years; charisma, as many people may follow present PM Tony Blair through the strength and attraction of his personality; and democratically through the people, as they vote in elections for the MP or party they wish to form the government. An example of an organisation that has power but not necessarily authority would be the Mafia, which exercise their power by sometimes using violence and force, or money, status, education or sex. In Liberal Democracies such as the UK, power is split into three types: legislative power, which is the power to make laws; executive power, which is the power to implement laws; and judicial power, which is the power to interpret laws.

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It is this power, regardless of authority or not which is in question. The thought of unchecked power is one which seems to strike fear into the heart of Tony Leon at least, but how does it affect the ideas and concept of the liberal ideology?

In looking at this statement we have to first do one thing, separate liberalism in two forms, classical liberalism and modern liberalism. As these are very different from another they cannot be grouped together for this question. Hopefully this will let this question be answered more easily and perhaps an answer can ...

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