Monday, October 7, 2013

Josiah Neeley and Adam Gurri do the Lord's work...

... defending Constitutional institutions such as the presidential system from their detractors (here and here).

It's very easy to think the division of powers is just an archaic hassle in times like this, but it's worth remembering that if we had a prime minister instead, for example, it would not be Prime Minister Obama making sure that none of this silliness goes on. It would be Prime Minister Boehner, constantly looking to the maintenance of his coalition.

You think he's desperate to keep the speakership?!? What do you think will happen if you make him head of government.

When an institution works this well for over two hundred years I'm personally wary of dispensing with it so completely.


  1. " would not be Prime Minister Obama making sure that none of this silliness goes on."

    Because as we're all aware, President Obama never engages in "silliness."

  2. Can Prime Ministers prevent things from coming to a vote though? I didn't think this was a possibility.

    1. In a Westminster system the Government can do many things by themselves without permission from Parliament. If earlier legislation has given the government particular powers then they can use them.

      But, there can always be votes of no confidence. If the parliament refuse to pass the budget that's a vote of no confidence too.

      Recently David Cameron had a vote on intervention in Syria, which he lost. He need not have had that vote, he could have gone ahead and intervened anyway, parliament aren't needed to approve wars. But if he'd done that he may have had to face a confidence motion later, and he could well have lost that.

    2. If the minority could demand a vote, in this case the House Democrats on an unencumbered continuing resolution or lifting the debt limit, it would likely pass. While a minority can block, it should require a much larger minority than the House is currently using which is barely more than 25% (majority of a majority). The Senate at 40% is bad enough.

    3. So, in the US system the majority party can prevent votes occurring on bills. So, if a majority of the majority party want to prevent a particular bill from being voted on then they can. I didn't know it worked like that.

      In Westminster systems the opposition can always create an early-day motion on a simple sentence about whether the house has confidence in the government.

  3. The problem with the forms of democracy that put almost all power in one institution is the great speed of change. In a Westminster system (for example) a government with a strong majority can enact changes at a blistering rate. They can do it far faster than the people can see the effects of those changes, which dulls the restrictive power of democracy by robbing people of experience. For example, the post 1945 Labour government in Britain nationalized most major industries in a very short time (rail, electricity, telecoms, steel, road haulage & aviation). Nobody could no the consequences of that, so they unfolded in the years that followed all at once. The same thing could have only been done piecemeal in the US.

    On the other hand, the slower movement of governments with multiple branches may become problematic too. In the US welfare has been handled by creating bureaucracies with particular goals, "programs". Generally that isn't how it works in Europe, though it has been for healthcare. In Europe it's much more fluid and a lot more of it changes than in the US. I think that's a large part of what enables European countries to continue being economically successful while having generous welfare. As circumstances change payments are altered, if a particular benefit is being abused then requirements on it are tightened up. I don't know enough about the US to know if that's possible to a great degree there.

  4. Since Current and I come from places that do use Westminster-style parliamentary systems...

    I hate to burst your bubble, but I have spoken to a political scientist about this once. Although his area of specialty isn't in political stability, apparently, nations with Westminster-style parliamentary systems actually have a better track record of political stability than nations with Washington-style congressional/presidential systems.

    One reason for this might be the fact that nations with Westminster-style systems tend to be more homogenous as a populace, another reason for this may also be because the political actors in such a parliamentary system face a greater pressure to compromise - otherwise, a hung parliament might ensue.

    The following link is not a scholarly source, but perhaps it might shed some more light on this issue.


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