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The Crisis That Demonstrates That Presidential Democracy Sucks


I’ll have a longer piece noting the obvious superiority of parliamentary democracy to presidential democracy at some point during the crisis. In the meantime, see Yglesias and Pareene. And, actually, I think Alex is understating the advantages of parliamentary democracy here:

We’re a year out from an election that, in a parliamentary democracy, would’ve easily granted one party control of the government. If, in this hypothetical American parliamentary system, the opposition wanted to force a showdown over the budget a year after the election, we’d have another election, and the winning party would get to implement its agenda.

Actually, it’s better than that — in a parliamentary democracy a minority party by itself couldn’t force a crisis or cause the government to collapse. Majority governments are actually permitted to govern, and a vote of non-confidence would have to be joined by at least some members of the majority party (or, in the case of a coalition government in a PR system, one or more parties from the majority coalition defecting.) The incentives of parliamentary government mean that the governing party has strong reasons not to sabotage the country’s economy because they’ll be held collectively responsible, whereas the separation of powers means that the most congressional Republicans believe they won’t pay any political price if they blow up the world economy, and they’re probably right.

And just to pre-empt the inevitable commenters for whom electoral reform is a hammer and every problem in American politics is a nail, the electoral system is part of the problem (although it’s more individual districts than plurality voting when it comes to Congress, and the effects of gerrymandering are vastly overrated.) But in 2010 (unlike in 2012) Republicans would have taken over the House with virtually any electoral system, and the problem that the House majority would have strong political incentives to undermine rather than cooperate with the president and the power to sabotage would remain. And of course electoral reform does almost nothing about the Senate, which is typically an even more problematic institution than the House.

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