by Gary J
Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 11:25:28 AM EST
I have noticed recently that some Americans were wondering if a Parliamentary system would be better than the Presidential/Congressional system they are used to.
I wonder if they have really understood how a Parliamentary system works.
In general terms, a Prime Minister with a disciplined and loyal majority in Parliament is far more powerful than a US President. The very reason why traditional British commentators, like Walter Bagehot in the nineteenth century, preferred the Parliamentary system was that it united the executive and legislative powers of government.
In a Parliament with no or less disciplined political parties, the executive probably is more responsive to Parliamentary opinion. This may be a good thing, but can lead to the sort of kaleidoscopic changes of Ministry you got during most of the history of the French Third and Fourth Republics.
Another point is that the way a political system works in one country may not be identical to the way the same rules operate in another society.
A United States, which has decided upon enormous institutional change and moved to a Parliamentary system, would probably still be a society with two not entirely satisfactory major parties. Parliamentary systems promote partisanship rather than co-operation between parties. That is because everything in the system is subordinated to the need to obtain and retain a Parliamentary majority. It is winner takes all, for a Parliamentary term. There are no rival centres of power, so the checks and balances are political and electoral rather than institutional and judicial.
What do you think is the ideal system of government?