In the 1640's the English Civil War (technically two civil wars) decided the supremacy of Parliament. And as Britain went on to become a successful Parliamentary democracy it has influenced, either directly or indirectly, every Parliament that exists today. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688 a system of checks and balances were introduced into the British Constitution. This Constitution is, unlike the more famous American one, unwritten. It divides power between three different institutions, the Crown, Parliament and the Judiciary.
In the United States Constitution the division of power was written down, but the principle is exactly the same. Each branch of the Government provides a series of checks and balances upon the other two branches. The Government was not the ruler of the people but the Guardian of their liberties. The best way to protect their liberties was to have a permanent stable Government with an approved method of peacefully changing the Government.
But what allowed each to function was the division of power. Each branch had it's rights and responsibilities and each was the custodian of both the rights and responsibilities. In fact the system had at it's heart a basic assumption, that both people and institutions crave more power. The system was designed so that it harnessed this force and used it in a constructive manner. Each branch being jealous of the power it had and refusing to give it up.
For the past 50 years Parliaments in every Western country have given up power. The best example of this is the United States, both the Presidency and the Supreme Court have taken the power the Congress and Congress has accepted it largely without protest.
Each decade since at least the 1930's the Supreme Court has created law, which is simply not it's job. What should happen is if the Supreme Court decides that a law is unconstitutional, then it should pass it back to Congress who then makes a new law. Instead Congress refuses to contradict the decisions of the Supreme Court and now whatever the Supreme Court decides is law. But this issue was settled in the 1640's, Parliament is supreme, why has Congress given away it's power to the Courts?
In the case of the Presidency things make more sense or at least it is more logical. The United States Constitution made the President the Commander in Chief of the armed forces and he is also responsible for foreign policy and foreign relations. But only Congress can declare war or sign a peace treaty and only Congress can vote to finance anything. Here is a clear example of the checks and balances. But how could the President threaten war if everyone knows he doesn't have that power? Because if he cannot threaten war it shows that he is weak, that the United States is weak and that can have serious consequences. So the Congress began to give the President the ability to threaten war and in time to wage war, all without the authority of Congress. It's not constitutional but it is logical even if you don't agree with it.
But the Congress also gave it's power away to other bodies that were not in the Constitution, the United Nations being the most powerful of these, although not the only one. In fact this started in the 1800's when Governments, not just the United States, began to sign up to International Courts and Tribunals, mostly concerned with settling Maritime issues or minor territorial disputes.
When created the British and American Constitutions were about what the Government were allowed to do, but today unless it says the Government cannot do something then it can. The interpretation has changed from restricting the actions of Government to unrestricting the actions of Government, unless specifically restricted.
When you look at other countries you see this exact same thing happening, it certainly is not restricted to the United States. The transfer of power away from the peoples representatives to unelected people. The system was never designed to be treated like this, it was never imagined that Parliaments would willingly give away their power. But maybe that's the answer, Parliament is supposed to be where the people have power and the weaker Parliament is the weaker the people are.
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