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Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws

By Charles de Montesquieu

In the 1700s it was called political economy. Now we call it political science. Charles de Montesquieu in his voluminous book on politics and government wrote the definitive work on how and why governments work.

This book was widely read by the founders of the United States. This work, through historical example and exemplary reasoning illustrates the absolute necessity of a government ruled by a balance of power. Montesquieu understood that there were certain elements in society that had to be controlled and yet deserved and demanded a say in government. He also saw there was a salutary role for each of these.

The executive branch of government needed to be under the control of a single individual in order to make it effective. The powers of the executive needed to border on dictatorial. However, he understood that they had to be tempered. To do this he recommended a role for the commons and the upper classes.

His critique on government was almost directly responsible for the formation of the American Senate and House of Representatives as well as a supreme court.

This classic study is a must read for anyone intending an in-depth study of political science.

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