The parliamentary model seemsoverwhelmingly preferred among the more advanced democratic nations. Why is this the case? We like to think of ourselves as the avatars of a successful and dynamic democracy. Why is the American strong President federal model not more popular?
Because it’s goofy. We like to think of ourselves in all sorts of ways that are inherently goofy.
Besides, if everyone had a strong president, how would the American exceptionalists argue that we’re so gosh darned exceptional?
The American system–bicameral legislature, separately elected President, in some cases combined with federalism–has been pretty widely copied in Latin America.
OK, maybe not really such a selling point there…
At any rate, the Westminster system has been widely adopted in part because a lot of countries are ex-colonies of a country that uses the Westminster system.
Perhaps the reason is that most other democracys developed from monarchies and wanted to avoid having a president that would compete with the King/Queen.
I think the reasons are that we were early adopters of representative democracy, and we made our constitution relatively hard to change (3/4 of the states have to ratify). So we’re pretty much stuck with Democracy 1.0 while other countries have upgraded to newer options.
I keep trying to download the patch, but the servers are always busy.
In general, a federal system is preferred if you have a wide range of diversity in your population. That way fewer interests are left out. If you have a homogeneous culture then you don’t really need it.
Imagine how long we would last if Alabama had to follow the same laws as Massachusetts.
Sort of there but not quite. In historic monarchies, the power-conflict dynamic historically was between the Crown and the representative body of the estates (first only nobles, then nobles and burgeois, then plus people in general), with the latter eventually gaining the upper hand and the monarch being reduced to a figurehead. Then, if democracy was introduced, it was a matter of making the Parliaments democratically elected; if/when republics were established, it was a relatively simple thing to make the “President” hold the (Figure)Head-of-State function. Use the existing structures. France tried to change the whole thing around radically and ended up in a huge mess, so ever since even most (not totally insane) revolutions will put in place something that looks an awful lot like the old government, with modifications.
In the US the unelected monarch was dispensed with altogether from the start so there was no motivation to deprive the Head of State of the power of Head of Government, or if you will put it the other way, no need to keep around a purely decorative Head of State when you have a perfectly good elected Head of Government. The main power-conflict becoming one of federalism v. centralism and of the relative power of the states, it was seen as necessary that the national executive be NOT dependent on the vote of confidence of the legislature.
I disagree with your premise. The US Constitution is arguably the most important and influential document ever written in human history. I’ll have to go digging through books later to be sure, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it written that over 100 nations have based their current model of government on it. That’s more than half the countries of the world. The parlimentary system is mostly popular in the former monarchies of western Europe and their [former] colonies.
Because it’s inefficient. With the federal Executive, Senate, House, and courts and their counterparsts at the state level all checking and balancing each other, it makes for a rickety machine. Why would countries want to make it more difficult to work together through their government? The American answer is that without these necessary checks and balances we would succumb to totalitarianism. The existence of the rest of the democratic nations seems to dent this article of faith not at all.
I’d say this is pretty spot on. MEBuckner raises a good point about inheriting parliamentary traditions. If the United States had waited until after 1832 to secede we might expect to have an American prime minister. Instead our executive branches are based on the King and are often working at cross purposes from our legislatures, as our Founding Fathers were used to.
A federal system can be beneficial if the diversity is geographically based. Say where you have one province like Quebec and another like Alberta. Widespread diversity is another matter.
Given that Alabamans would be leading better lives, I imagine we’d last longer being stronger as a nation.
The premise is that parliamentary democracy is “overwhelmingly preferred among the more advanced democratic nations”. Robert Dahl counted 21 other nations that were “Steadily democratic since at least 1950”. None have copied our system. Those that have gone the strong presidency route, as MEBuckner alludes to, are not shining examples of popular government.
Just my 2sense
OTOH, how many other countries have a written constitution that’s been continually in effect all the way back to 1789?
I think the Westminster system is easier to implement*, is more instinctive to the non-Constitutional scholar and is closer to theoretical “democracy”. None of these attributes, however, necessarily make it a better form of government in the long run, just different.
*Implementation time for US government system as it stands now: approximately 160 years.
Also, 2sense, who’s to say that it woudn’t be Alabama’s laws being imposed on Massachusetts? And I’d be interested to see where you can point out the word “totalitarianism” in the Federalist Papers, or indeed any document dating from before the twentieth century.
2sense seems to be coming from the point of view that government knows best. He or she is the type of person the founding fathers had in mind when they designed all those “rickety” checks and balances, and I thank them for it every day.
Interesting point here in that Dahl cite
I don’t see the Senate as all bad. In the economic tribulations we’ve be undergoing the Senate (so far as I could see) stepped up while the House was tied up in partisanship nonsense and posturing re the rescue legislation. Some of the speeches the Senators on both sides of the aisle gave that day explaining how they were voting for the greater good and against their constituents stated wishes were quite inspiring.
But in some places it’s been used as a Bad Example, same as many other US laws. For example, the concept of protecting specific groups from discrimination has come up in other countries (Spain for sure and I understand it went to the EU level) and the decision has been, in those cases I’m familiar with, that protecting certain groups discriminates against everybody else (not as a matter of “protecting blacks makes things bad for whites” but as a matter of “if you’re being mistreated at work because your boss hates, say, left handed people or supporters of Atletic, you have as much right to being protected as if his bigotry was linked to something which is listed in the Constitution - the items listed in the Constitution are examples and not an exhaustive list”).
Spanish politics are funny in the relationship between the two biggest parties and US law. It’s the Socialists who love US laws and want to copy them, something which always leaves me scratching my head.
I’m really confused as to what you’re trying to say here. I don’t think our constitution says anything about protecting certain groups, if that’s what you’re getting at.
I think you’re confused on three points: (1) anti-discrimination measures like what you’re talking about aren’t (AFAICR) enshrined in the Constitution but are a matter of ordinary Federal legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act; (2) there are no Federally protected “groups”, as in an explicit statement that “you may not discriminate against a Black person”–what you have are sets of criteria on which it is illegal to discriminate, and the very same laws have been used to uphold the interests of (say) white people; and (3) those criteria are actually quite limited: age, race, gender, religion and (in many states) sexual orientation. If I’m a boss and I decide to fire you or not hire you because you’re left handed, I’m pretty sure that’s perfectly legal from a Federal perspective.
Is Massachusetts a country?
Why must one one impose laws upon the other? If they had a single plebiscite they could agree on laws together. Then they would become more homogeneous thus tying the nation together more strongly.
You’ve misunderstood my comment. It’s not as if Publius could be aware of the democratic nations that exist today. I’m referring to current ideology.
You are mistaken here. My point is that our belief in the necessity of dividing governmental authority is clearly mistaken, given the examples around us.
Now here you’ve got it exactly right. An uppity working class guy demanding an equal say in how we are governed, a Founding Father’s nightmare indeed. (Though I can’t say I’ve proposed any paper money schemes lately. )
Who’s to say that a unicameral legislature wouldn’t take the high road and not the low? An argument against divided government is that it leads to irresponsibility. In Great Britain, there isn’t any other body for the Commons to blame for not getting things done. They are almost the whole show. Their response to the financial crisis may be relevant. Rather than producing a plan, trying to bully the legislature into passing it as is, failing, finally getting it passed by loading it down with pork, and still trying to work out the kinks as here in America, the Brits announced a plan and made the first commitment of funds five days later. And in a manner that the U.S. Treasury Secretary is only now slowly coming around to (equity in exchange for cash).
Just my 2sense
Really? What about the Magna Carta? As I recall the Magna Carta is cited as influencing the US constitution as well as a number of other constitutional type documents.
No, it is not. Your point?
Suuuure they could. The 36 million people of California could come together with the 2.5 million people of Nevada or the 3.7 million people of Oregon and proportionally vote on a single set laws that wouldn’t leave any chance of exploitation of the smaller states.
And enforced homogeneity is such an attractive feature of government, I can’t imagine why anyone would recoil at the idea.
Cite on what this “current ideology” may be? And cite as to how it has anything to do with the historical enactment of our Constitution?
Wouldn’t go so far as to call the group you represent a “nightmare”, but the Founding Fathers most certainly did not trust your direct participation in government any further than the House of Representatives.