The most constant points of emphasis, familiar ideas due to the influence of the tradition, are these:
- the importance of having a constitution, written or unwritten, within which government has to operate;
- the desirability of those in government being selected -- usually elected -- in such a way that different parts of the populace have their rival interests represented;
- the ideal of limiting the tenure of those in executive office, say by requiring their selection to be regularly renewed, as under periodic elections;
- the need for government to rule by law, not in a case-by-case fashion, and to ensure that its laws apply to everyone, legislators included, and are general, clear, well-understood, and so on;
- the indispensability of dividing up power, so that each authority is subject to checks and balances, and in particular the indispensability of separating out judicial power from executive and legislative power;
- the requirement that whatever decisions are made by government are backed up by reasons deriving from purportedly common interests, so that the relevance and strength of those reasons can be challenged in the legislature, the courts, or other forums;
- the inevitable reliance of this whole system on the existence of an active, concerned citizenry who invigilate the exercise of government power, challenge its abuses and seek office where necessary.
"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community"