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A Critique of Riggsian Anti-Presidentialism Gibberish

December 11, 2011

A blind supporter of a nihilistic, pro-welfare movement in the Philippines, which naively advocates parliamentarism, asked me to view a YouTube video that tackles why “presidential system is a dangerous American export”. The video was mainly based on Fred W. Riggs’s attack on American presidentialism. In 1994, Riggs, a professor emeritus of political science at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, published his utterly flawed comparative analysis titled Problems of Presidentialism and the American Exception.

The Abstract of Riggs’s study states:

The American constitutional system based on the separation of powers was modeled on a transitional stage in the evolution of democracy as experienced in 18th century England. With Kings struggling to retain power against insurgent parliamentary forces, a precarious imbalance of power existed which the Founding Fathers copied in America, but sought to stabilize by an ingenious though precarious system of checks and balances. When other countries imitated this plan — as in virtually all of Latin America and some countries in Africa, Asia, and the post-Soviet arena — they typically experienced break-downs followed by despotism. By contrast, in the United States, despite severe crises such as a major Civil War and the Depression, the system has survived until today, a truly exceptional experience that calls for explanations, as proposed here.

Meanwhile, all the other industrial democracies, on the basis of 19th century developments in the UK, have adopted a significantly different constitutional design based on an the accountability of Cabinet Government to Parliamentary controls that evolved in England half a century after the American Revolution. Although no constitutional plan can guarantee success for any country, the likelihood that parliamentary regimes will survive is far greater than the prospects for those based on the separation-of-powers. Even the best recipe can be spoiled by a bad cook, but all cooks are more likely to succeed following better rather than worse recipes.

First, I observed the intellectual bankruptcy and utter desperation of this nihilistic group to blindly promote parliamentary system by presenting the many “alleged” studies conducted by pro-parliamentary “intellectuals” who happen to be notorious liberals, leftists, globalists and statists. Some of these pro-parliamentary statists and liberals are CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who believes that India’s parliamentary form of government is superior to America’s presidential form of government, and  Fred Riggs, who published his 1994 error-filled comparative analysis.

Let me make the following comments on Riggs’s highly fallacious, anti-intellectual analysis:

1. Riggs believes that “only a two-party system is compatible, in the long run, with presidentialism.” This shows Riggs’s ignorance of politics and of the concept of form of government. This despite the fact that he somehow knew that a “two-party system is not necessarily a permanent feature of any presidentialist regime.” If we try to look at real-world facts, we can safely assume that Riggs’s conclusion, therefore, is highly fallacious. A government may implement presidentialism with major modifications. Proof: Philippines and other presidential governments. In fact, I can argue that the Philippine’s multi-party system is a big liability or downside because we all know that all political parties in the country today do not really represent distinctive political agenda and aspirations.

2. Like most advocates of parliamentarism, Riggs committed the fallacy of “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation”, since he argues that the “frequent collapse of presidentialist regimes in about 30 third world” is the proof that the “political formula [of presidential system” is seriously flawed”.  Again, what is the reason why the Philippines further collapsed after adopting a Constitution with a higher degree of protectionism and welfare system? What is the reason why America’s economy collapsed in 2008? Is it not because of the country’s many failed economic and political policies, as evidenced by countless of economic studies conducted by economists and think tanks like the Doing Business dot Org and the Heritage Foundation?

It must be noted that Riggs published his study in 1994. Too bad he died years ago in that he can no longer amend or revise his utterly flawed analysis. Today, we see the inevitable collapse of many European nations that adopted parliamentarism. Can we also conclude that these global economic trends suggest that the political formula of parliamentarism is also seriously flawed. But I do not share Riggs’s and other alleged thinkers’ political ignorance.

Many members (like Greece, Spain and Italy) of the EU are experiencing serious economic and financial troubles because of the EU continental government’s failed political and economic policies. The 27 member-states of the union are now being governed by a global parliamentary political body (with unelected officials) in Brussels. Is this system beneficial to the interests of these EU nations? Reality has it that this political scheme proves to be highly dangerous and destructive to the sovereignty of the EU nations and to the future and interests of their people.

3. Riggs’s “comparative analysis of presidentialism” is utterly flawed and was based on junk economics and politics. Again, this is because his alleged analysis committed the fallacy of “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation”. Comparing nations’ forms of government is worse than the discredited method being applied by Keynesian economists. Riggs assumed that the main reason why nations failed is because of their adopted forms of government. Like many misguided proponents of parliamentarism, Riggs did not clearly understand the difference between form of government and political system.

4. Riggs’s analysis was based on an utterly false premise. As already stated, he assumed that many states failed in the past because of their adopted forms of government, not because of their implemented economic and political policies. Today, real-world facts and evidence show that both presidential and parliamentary governments experience deep economic recession due to failed economic and political policies, not because of their forms of government. In fact, the attention of economic analysts and economists is now focused on the EU, which is desperately trying to fix its serious economic troubles. Since 2008, the United States, under the Obama regime, tried to solve the country’s economic mess by doubling the size of its government. That is, by issuing more regulatory policies, adopting bailout and stimulus programs, nationalizing private companies and banks, etc. However, the same statist solution was also adopted by many European governments like Great Britain, Greece, Spain, Italy, etc.

5. Riggs’s assumption that presidentialist regimes have to be conservative. He claims: “I have argued that presidentialist regimes have to be conservative in order to survive whereas parliamentary regimes may well move much further in the direction of social democracy and the regulation of capitalist enterprises .”

Recent political realities debunked this claim, as the United States and many countries the world over have become statist-liberals or welfare states. The problem with Riggs’s assumption is that he naively equated conservatism with the free market system. America and the Philippines have recently and currently adopted what he called “social democracy and the regulation of capitalist enterprises”, which he deemed inherent in parliamentary regimes.

6. Riggs suggested an “interdependence of capitalism and presidentialism.” Here’s one of the most controversial yet naive statements made by Riggs: “By supporting candidates in both parties whose views support capitalism, even though tinged with enough commitment to social justice to ameliorate the most flagrant causes of unrest, contributors help to maintain the system.” Again, recent and current political realities prove him wrong. The election of Obama proves that many businesses and firms did not support capitalism, but corporatism. I even suspect that Riggs did not clearly understand the concept of capitalism, as as his discussion suggests that he used capitalism and corporatism (including “shrewd capitalism) interchangeably.

He also concluded “that capitalism–in conjunction with federalism–helps to perpetuate an open party system in the U.S., even though it could not create such a system.” Again, reality is the only objective arbiter to prove whether Riggs’s utterly flawed conclusion is true or not. What cannot be denied is that reality proves him wrong.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES:

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of the Pro-Parliamentary Demagogues

It’s the Political System, Stupid!

Basic Principles for Presidential Type of Government

Fareed Zakaria’s Parliamentary Drivel

Presidential System Over Parliamentary System

The Origin of ‘Cult of Personality’

The Moral Base of the Filipino Nation and Philippine’s Intellectual Bankruptcy

Uncle Sam to Pinas: ‘Scrap Protectionism!’

13 Comments leave one →
  1. eduardo r. alicias, jr. permalink
    December 12, 2011 3:38

    Froi, theoretically, it is true that correlation analysis does not show causality, but by the same token it cannot likewise show non-causality. So, if the consistent showing of positive correlation between the parliamentary system and economic performance cannot by itself be conclusive in favor of parliamentarism, then a fortiori it cannot support presidentialism! So, Froi, your argument (on the basis of correlation) is so much more unavailing to your fanatical adherence to presidentialism.
    In this respect, how would like or care to consider the results of multivariate regression analyses (with control variables) showing a similar consistency–in favor of the parliamentary form, structure or system of government? In this connection, you may start with, say, Stepan and Skach (1994) and/or Alicias (2007). Your present discomfort with mere correlations may yet vanish upon reading results of multiple regressions.
    Moreover, we are surprised that you dismiss form or structure of government as “mere tool”–not as substantive as a “system.” Would you care to clearly define these terms, hoping that one can be clearly distinguished from the other, so that the issues in the debate can be joined? Our view is that the system is defined and/or constrained by the form or structure of government–analogously in much the same way as traffic flow (system) is defined or constrained by the form or structure of the road networks, i.e. road barriers, grade separations, etc. and the regulatory forms or structures (traffic rules and regulations), etc. Structures do matter a lot! For example, one can pray very fervently, even everyday, for the next century or so, hoping that the river would flow to a level much higher than its present elevation, i.e., for irrigation and power generation purposes, but that is not bound to happen–except where and when there would arise a change in structure like the erection of a dam!
    Indeed, structures do matter!

    • December 12, 2011 3:38

      “So, if the consistent showing of positive correlation between the parliamentary system and economic performance cannot by itself be conclusive in favor of parliamentarism, then a fortiori it cannot support presidentialism! So, Froi, your argument (on the basis of correlation) is so much more unavailing to your fanatical adherence to presidentialism.”

      — Are you saying that the sole reason why some parliamentary nations are economically stable is because of their form of government? But why are most parliamentary nations today experience serious economic troubles? Is it also because of their form of government? Why are some parliamentary nations poor like the Philippines? Is it because of their form of government? I urge you to update those sophomoric comparative data, which you gathered.

      In what way does a nation’s FORM OF GOVERNMENT- and not its economic policies or political system- affect its economy?

      Kindly explain further how the fallacy of “correlation” is NOT applicable in this particular case apart from your hilarious, baseless assumption that my argument is motivated by my “fanatical adherence to presidentialism”? In fact, I can also make the same allegation, by saying that your and Orion’s dogmatic arguments have been motivated by your “fanatical adherence” to parliamentarism.

      Kindly give a real-world example that shows this “positive correlation between the parliamentary system and economic performance”.

      Do you understand why most economies failed? Do you understand why the RP’s economy has become unstable after adopting the 1987 Constitution? We all know that more than 25 years ago, RP was one of the economic tigers in Asia, while Singapore, which was a parliamentary nation since its liberation, lagged behind. Singapore became an economic tiger ONLY after Lee Kuan Yew adopted free market principles and policies. Take note: Singapore was already a parliamentary state LONG BEFORE LKY instituted free market reforms or adopted freer politico-economic policies.

      Do you understand why America (presidentialist) and many European countries (parliamentarists) are now in serious financial and economic turmoil? Are you going to put the blame on these nations’ form of government?

      The problem with your dogmatic arguments and FANATICAL adherence to parliamentarism is that you somehow believe that it’s parliamentarism when nations are economically stable, and it’s not when they’re poor.

      If you can answer these questions- and if you have enough critical thinking skills to understand economics and history- then you may be able to understand that those alleged studies that conducted regression analyses were based on an utterly flawed premise and inspired by erroneous, defective methodology.

      By the way, did you read Riggs’s utterly flawed comparative analysis? Is that what you call a study that applied “results of multivariate regression analyses”? I’d like to know.

      By the way, you obviously sound like Orion… Just sayin’. ;-)))

  2. Eduardo R. Alicias, Jr. permalink
    December 13, 2011 3:38

    Froi, are you interested to run multiple regressions analyses yourself? I could provide you a part of a data matrix involving 192 countries. You could run the analyses yourself, and then we can compare notes. Or, if you have your own data matrix involving the same number of countries, you may allow me to examine and use the same. The results should enlightening and interesting. What specific extraneous variables do you want to control for their confounding effects? I have my own data matrix, including data for a number of such control variables, and it would be nice if we could swap data matrices–and results of statistical analyses.
    There is a lot of empirical literature on the presidential-parliamentary debate. Those which are adverse to the presidential and therefore in favor of the parliamentary form or structure or system are: e.g., Linz, Shugart and Carey, Riggs, Stepan and Skach, Weaver and Rockman, Gerring and Thacker (2005), and my work in 2007 (Trafford Publishing). On the other hand, those who have directly or indirectly attacked the parliamentary form are: e.g., Calabresi, Haggard and Kaufman, Power and Gasiorowski, Mainwaring. These empirical papers (attacking the parliamentary form) have been reviewed in my 2007 published work. (The local edition of this is available from Central Books.)
    The current mainstream in the philosophy of science is the theory of falsificationism–which means falsifying a current theory with superior logic and empirical evidence. Mere pointing the alleged flaws of current theory or deductive-inductive system is not enough to falsify existing theory. Thus, simply saying that correlational analysis is flawed is not enough to falsify a current mainstream proposition. One has to present a stronger countervailing proposition amply supported with logic and evidence! Mere beliefs and speculations are utterly unavailing.
    I have an available set of data (192 countries) upon which complex multivariate statistical analyses were and can further still be made. My 2007 data are published in my said 2007 book. You may do your own correlational and multivariate analyses based on said data–and then we can compare results! Now, your task or onus probandi is to present a more valid set of data cum better statistical results. Then and only then can you begin validly falsifying, say, the conclusions of Linz, Riggs, Stepan and Skach, and my humble work. I repeat, your ardent beliefs and speculations–like those of others–must survive the crucible of logic and empiricism. Shall we proceed?!

    • December 13, 2011 3:38

      In case you didn’t catch this blog, I have the answer here. Thanks! https://fvdb.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/welfare-state-and-parliamentarism/

      I urge you to present your own comparative study of presidentialism and parliamentarism and I’ll be happy to critique it like the way I did to the Riggs’s utterly flawed study. However, I warn you that I’m a very impatient – or even RUDE- critic. I don’t wanna waste my time reading intellectually bankrupt papers based on an utterly erroneous premise and methodology. Also, I found that Stepan’s and Skach’s study is NOT even a study, but a poorly researched college paper. Furthermore, Gerring’s and Thacker’s work is being promoted by liberals and statists like Lee Drutman (whose article was published on inCORRECT website), who roots for the swift passage of welfare reforms like the Clinton socialized Health Care.

    • December 13, 2011 3:38

      By the way, I need to repost this because it seems you didn’t read it. You’re not responsive to my statement.

      Also, those regression analyses ARE FULL OF CRAP or NOTHING if they’re based on an utterly FLAWED PREMISE and on an ERRONEOUS METHODOLOGY. Comparing nations according to their forms of government will not prove your so naive, ignorant a claim that parliamentarism is the more stable system. There are many variants of parliamentary system. Don’t you understand that? There are also many variants of presidential system.

      Kindly give a real-world example that shows this “positive correlation between the parliamentary system and economic performance”.

      Do you understand why most economies failed? Do you understand why the RP’s economy has become unstable after adopting the 1987 Constitution? We all know that more than 25 years ago, RP was one of the economic tigers in Asia, while Singapore, which was a parliamentary nation since its liberation, lagged behind. Singapore became an economic tiger ONLY after Lee Kuan Yew adopted free market principles and policies. Take note: Singapore was already a parliamentary state LONG BEFORE LKY instituted free market reforms or adopted freer politico-economic policies.

      Do you understand why America (presidentialist) and many European countries (parliamentarists) are now in serious financial and economic turmoil? Are you going to put the blame on these nations’ form of government?

      The problem with your dogmatic arguments and FANATICAL adherence to parliamentarism is that you somehow believe that it’s parliamentarism when nations are economically stable, and it’s not when they’re poor.

      If you can answer these questions- and if you have enough critical thinking skills to understand economics and history- then you may be able to understand that those alleged studies that conducted regression analyses were based on an utterly flawed premise and inspired by erroneous, defective methodology.

      By the way, did you read Riggs’s utterly flawed comparative analysis? Is that what you call a study that applied “results of multivariate regression analyses”? I’d like to know.

  3. Marcial Bonifacio permalink
    May 25, 2013 3:38

    The key point is that countries with a parliamentary system may have other factors which have contributed to their success. Samakatuwid, it would be inaccurate to attribute this exclusively to their form of government.

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