Presidential System Over Parliamentary System
I’m in favor of presidential system for the same reason that I reject a parliamentary form of government: free-market capitalism.
I strongly reject some of the compromising features of our presidential system. However, I strongly disagree with the so naive a political proposal that we need to replace our ‘form of government’ with a parliamentary form of government if we want a more stable government. I do not buy the idea being peddled
by a nihilist group in these parts that “moving to a Parliamentary System will give us a more stable, efficient, accountable, flexible, cheaper to operate, more issues and policies-centric, more party-based, and overall superior system.”
I also don’t agree with the so ignorant a claim that “that use Parliamentary Systems” is “much more attractive to foreign investors as well as encourages local entrepreneurs and investors to emerge.”
Our so-called ‘presidential system’ is not even a ‘carbon copy’ of America’s alleged ‘system of government’. Our political framework is purely a ‘national’ one, e.g., it gives so much political power to the national government.
But this is what most naive political theorists and wannabe political pundits and ideologues do not understand: America’s framework or system of government should be properly called “The American System”, not merely presidentialism, federalism, Republicanism, or a combination of the three. You remove one of this classical features and you destroy the entire “American System”.
America’s federalism was originally envisioned to limit the power of national or federal government (related blog On America’s Federalism and its Conformity to Republican Principles). Notice that there are three co-equal branches of a Republican government: the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The legislative branch is essentially composed of State representatives and senators. Since States have authority and “rights” of their own and are independent of the Federal government, the executive branch must therefore be properly represented by the States (which created the Federal government) through an indirect election. This doctrine of State independence was reiterated in the landmark case National Federation v. Sebelius, which quotes Madison’s Federalist Paper No. 45– “The independent power of the States also serves as a check on the power of the Federal Government: “By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power.”
Our so-called presidential system is a national one, because (1) we do not apply/implement federalism; (2) senators who represent the legislative branch’s higher chamber (Senate) are elected via a national election; (3) we do not have electoral college system). In other words, we do not have independent states that elect their own representatives and senators; we have local representatives and NATIONAL senators who both represent the legislature (Congress).
Thus, our so-called form of government should not be compared to America’s political system.
Furthermore, I totally reject the claim that “Parliamentary Systems also feature a check-and-balance system that is far superior to the grid-lock prone and extremely slow and dilatory nature of the separation of the executive and the legislative branches in the presidential system where “veto” or “blocking” is the only means for “checks-and-balance.” Far too many Filipinos and Americans erroneously think that separation-of-powers is the only way to provide checks-and-balances.”
Here are the reasons why the ill-informed arguments in favor of parliamentary system are misplaced and ignore some crucial political and economic realities.
A form of government (e.g., parliamentary system, presidential system, monarchy, etc.) is just a political tool to achieve the stated political, economic and social goals and aspirations of a nation. The last refers to political system. As a political tool, a form of government, say, presidential or parliamentary system, identifies the structure of a representative government, its functions, and defines its roles. One of the fundamental questions in regard to this matter is NOT “how would you want your government to rule you”, BUT, “why do you need a government?”
Do you need a government to act as your ruler-for-life or to be your personal dictator? Or do you need a government to protect your freedom and rights? This is the fundamental premise that the modern-day peddlers of a parliamentary system of government fail or refuse to see.
No matter what form government it is the role of government and the nature of rights that people need to properly understand. However, this does not mean that a form of government is dispensable. So before we talk about the form of government that we ought to adopt for our country, we have to consider first the following fundamental principles:
- What’s the proper role and nature of government? Is it the provider of public goods or protector of rights, or both? This means that we need to define the role of our government first before choosing the form of government that we need to adopt. If the government is the protector of rights and freedom, it follows the government only has the following CONSTITUENT functions: 1) law courts for the protection of contracts and to settle any kinds of legal dispute; 2) police for the protection of innocent individuals against criminals and gangs; and military for the protection of the whole nation against internal threats and foreign invaders. This “proper role doctrine” effectively separates the line between a capitalist-individualist state and a welfare-collectivist state.
- What’s the nature of man’s rights? Is man entitled to his life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness? Does a ‘right’ mean a right of action in a social context or a political entitlement to be guaranteed by the government? The answer to the last question determines 1) the relationship between man and state, and 2) the function or role of government. If a “right” means a right to act, then, every man is free to pursue his goals in order to sustain his life, to earn a living and keep his earnings, and be protected against undue government interference and possible violation of his privacy. However, if a “right” means a political entitlement to ‘something’, then the government is mandated by law to provide the people with their needs, such as food, education, heath care, housing, transport, and other social services. The first definition of “rights” pertains to an individualist/capitalist society, while the second pertains to a socialist/welfarist society.
- Do government powers need to be limited by law OR created by law? There’s a big difference between the two (constitutional limitation and legal creation). In fact, the difference tells whether a state is a collectivist or an individualist. An individualist state is one whose powers are limited by the Constitution. A collectivist state is the exact opposite of an individualist state. The latter may simply create laws to either limit the freedoms and rights of its people or to (allegedly) provide for their needs. I believe that if we want a free society, we need to establish a limited government.
- What are the constitutional/legal protections to prevent possible abuse of political power, including internal and external threats? Are there established mechanisms for hiring and firing elected and appointive officials? Is there any non-arbitrary mechanism for hiring and hiring the president? Some well-known protections under a Federalist Republican system (not presidential system) are as follows: separation of powers and checks and balances, impeachment of some public officials, anti-graft laws, etc. As to protection against internal and external threats, we have laws against treason, treason and coup detat, the power of the government (through constitutionally appropriate branches) to declare war, etc.
Are there established mechanisms for hiring and firing elected and appointive officials? Is there any non-arbitrary mechanism for hiring and hiring the president? Some well-known protections under a presidential system are as follows: separation of powers and checks and balances, impeachment of some public officials, anti-graft laws, etc. As to protection against internal and external threats, we have laws against treason, treason and coup detat, the power of the government (through constitutionally appropriate branches) to declare war, etc.
This is not to say that our national system of government, which some people call ‘presidential system’, is perfect and must be preserved. It’s quite the opposite. We are a failed state (to borrow the term used by political quack doctor Noam Chomsky), politically and economically, not solely because of our presidential form of government, but because of the total disregard of the FOUR FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES presented above. Thus, those who point to the failure of our “presidential system” as a justification for a shift to a parliamentary system fail to see the real source of poverty, failure of government, and any form economic problems.
I agree with the argument that our miserable economic condition is due to lack of economic freedom owing to our protectionist constitution, government regulations and intervention, progressive tax system, among others. However, those who rely on this ‘incomplete’ argument simply missed one thing: the real source of political/economic failure.
What is this source of political, including social and economic, failure? It is BIG GOVERNMENT or Welfare statism, the idea that the government must act as a nanny state or Santa Claus state. The reason for this political and economic catastrophe is the failure to identify the proper role of government and to define man’s rights.
A nation’s failure to consider these indispensable, fundamental principles (e.g., proper government role and man’s rights) could give rise to welfare statism or even dictatorship regardless of the form of government being implemented.
We already had a ‘parliamentary system’ during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos wherein the legislature obediently served the role of a rubber-stamp Congress.
As to the baseless, unfounded claim that “that use Parliamentary Systems” is “much more attractive to foreign investors as well as encourages local entrepreneurs and investors to emerge”, any form of government can have the potentials to attract both domestic and foreign investors so long as the institutions of economic freedom are duly established and protected. What attracts investors is not the form of government, but the institutions (or protections/recognitions) that the government adopts.
For instance, a country that applies presidential system (e.g., The United States and Philippines), may be able to attract both domestic and foreign investors by protecting and recognizing the institutions of economic freedom: 1) property rights, 2) limited government, 3) access to sound money, 4) global free trade, and 5) mechanisms against corruption. This means that so long as a nation remains free, that is, so long as it recognizes and protects individual rights, in general, and property rights, in particular, it may be able to propel itself from being a backwater state to a first world nation.
Also, any country may adopt “decentralization” as a political or economic policy. Decentralization is not inherent to only one political system, say, parliamentary form of government. Both presidential and parliamentary systems may establish decentralization as a political policy. So this means that the argument that we need to replace our presidential system with parliamentary system in order to implement decentralization is utterly misplaced. We can decentralize our government by simply adopting a federal-presidential system.
One of the unique characteristics of presidential system is the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances. This doctrine is inherent to the presidential system because it is fundamentally composed of three co-equal branches– the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary.
Under a presidential system, the entire electorate may directly elect their leaders, from the lowest political post of the land up to the president. Under a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister, who is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government, is directly elected by the legislature. The Wikipedia definition of this form of government somehow shows the nature of this form of government. It says, “A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined.”
If the PM gets its political legitimacy or mandate from the legislature, the tendency is that it is accountable only to that body. In reality, the PM is not directly accountable to the electorate; it is the legislature that is accountable to the latter.
Thus, those who endorse a parliamentary system of government simply fail to understand the source and the destroyers of wealth. A country is economically stable not because of its form of government, but because of the fundamental political and social system that it adopts. There’s a big difference between ‘political system’ and ‘form of government.’ A political system is a system of politics and government (e.i., capitalism, socialism, democracy, anarchy, monarchy, etc.), while a form of government refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. I’m in favor of presidential system for the same reason that makes me reject a parliamentary form of government: free-market capitalism. I believe that a PROPER presidential system (that is, that which considers the proper role of government and individual rights), is the most practical political tool for this country, as it is compatible with free-market capitalism.
A limited Republican-presidential system is inherently a decentralized government. It is non-objective political laws and edicts, as well as regulations and intrusive economic policies, that can only make a “centralized government” or even an intrusive centralized government possible. If only laws were committed to the protection of individual rights, this country would be able to achieve economic success in the near future.