Welfare State and Parliamentarism
Many proponents and supporters of parliamentarism are encouraged and attracted by the system’s ability to swiftly facilitate the passage of statist legislation and welfare measures. When they criticize presidentialism ‘per se’, they begin by disparaging the rigidity of America’s presidential-republican system. It appears that since many of these advocates of parliamentarism are welfare statists, they don’t understand- or they refuse to understand- that the so-called inflexibility and rigidity of the American system is the beauty of classical presidentialism.
- NOTE: This is an updated version.
A determined reader and commenter- and obviously a strong supporter of parliamentary system- named Eduardo R. Alicias, Jr. initiated an interesting informal discussion on my blogsite. In trying to defend his parliamentary dogma, Mr. Alicias asked whether I conducted a comparative analysis (similar to that of Prof. Fred Riggs’s utterly flawed study against presidentialism), or whether I considered “the results of multiple regression analyses” that support the claim that parliamentary system is a more stable form of government.
Cool-sounding terms like “regression analysis”, “comparative studies”, etc. are often used by diploma-toting ignoramuses to bluff and to show they possess a superior level of intelligence (perhaps simply because they uncritically absorbed these terms in college).
Commenting on my article titled A Critique of Riggsian Anti-Presidentialism Gibberish, Mr. Alicias said, in part:
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.
That said, let’s try to look at the Incorrect Movement’s cited studies or sources. I visited their site and found a number of external sources. But first, let’s start with Stepan’s and Skach’s study titled Presidentialism and Parliamentarism Compared published in 1994.
The following is the summary of their study:
Pure parliamentarianism is more conduce to consolidation than pure presidentialism. Why? (1) Govts are more likely to have a majority backing them, which can implement their programs; (2) parliaments can rule better when there are multiple parties; (3) executives are less likely to rule “at the edge of the constitution”; (4) if they do, it is easier to remove them; (5) parliaments are less susceptible to military coups; (6) parliamentarism does better at providing “long party or government careers, which add loyalty and experience to political society.” Thus, politicians have more “degrees of freedom as they attempt to consolidate democracy.”
A typology of “pure presidentialism” and “pure parliamentarism” along two variables:
- chief executive requires legislature’s confidence (parl.) or not (pres.)
- legislature can be dissolved by executive (parl.) or not (pres.)
Based on their paper, Stepan and Skach argue that parliamentarism is a more stable system because it is not saddled with too much gridlock characterized by strict checks and balances and separation of powers usually present in presidential regimes. This particular ‘advantage’ or characteristic allows a parliament to easily or swiftly pass necessary legislation or political measures to achieve certain political or economic agenda. It appears that this flexibility and non-rigidity of parliamentary system is what attracts its main proponents and supporters. As Stepan and Skach argue, politicians in a parliamentary regime are more likely to swiftly obtain a majority support and implement necessary measures and programs.
The flexibility of parliamentarism appears to be true under unicameral systems, or those with a single legislative chamber. Proponents of unicameral parliamentary systems love to point out the many advantages of the system, such as its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and ability to ensure accountability and efficiency. However, real-word facts show that in recent years, parliamentary unicameral systems were largely associated with dictatorships or authoritarian states.
What can be proved is that the alleged simplicity or unitary structure of the system could be easily perverted or subverted by simply passing arbitrary regulatory laws and political edicts that could destroy people’s rights and freedom and restrict the markets. This is the actual experience of several parliamentary states in Europe, particularly the members of the European Union.
For instance, following the election of the socialists in Greece, the country’s unicameral parliament, dominated by statist politicians, quickly doubled the size of the government by establishing a comprehensive welfare state and by issuing too much regulations and welfare policies.
A commentary from Rasmussen Report sums up the Greek economic tragedy:
Take the ongoing financial crisis in Greece, which has prompted a $144 billion bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.This EU/IMF bailout – part of a larger $1 trillion “rescue” plan for the Euro – is nothing but a massive Ponzi scheme, as the leaders of fiscally reckless nations are basically saddling their debt onto the shoulders of their more responsible neighbors.
Not surprisingly, the root cause of the crisis that is threatening to bring down the global economy lies in the unsustainable expansion of the welfare state – which should be a lesson for American politicians of both parties.
First, let’s look at what’s happening in Greece.
“Greek governments have spent years buying social peace and votes with public spending, generous pensions, tax breaks, EU money and jobs for life, directed to an array of rent-seeking interest groups,”The Economist noted last month. “This sort of social contract, lubricated by endemic corruption and lax law-enforcement, has evolved to suit a country emerging from a vile civil war and years of dictatorship in which consensus was painfully absent.”
Also, let’s not forget that Greece sought for years to hide its growing debt problem from the rest of the world, paying hundreds of millions of Euros to various financial institutions in an effort to conceal the extent of its profligate borrowing.
The current economic woes in Greece could then be attributed to its weak structure of government, which is strictly unicameral, as it allowed the ruling socialist party to easily implement a flurry of socialistic legislation and politico-economic welfare measures that ultimately destroyed the country’s economy and severely affected the lives and future of its people.
In understanding or studying the nature of the current Euro economic and debt crisis, one should not forget to look at the structure or form of government of the 27 member-states of the European Union. Both Portugal and Greece adopted unicameral parliamentary system, while Spain, Italy and Ireland, which were ruled by socialist political parties, apply bicameral system. Since their politicians have been guaranteed flexible power under their unicameral system that helped destroyed their economies, Portugal and Greece now pose great existential threat to the remaining strength of the EU. Just this week, Portugal’s massive debt has been downgraded by Moody’s to ‘junk’, while Greece is desperately seeking bailout.
How did the socialist politicians in these European countries rapidly destroy their formerly stable economies?
One good explanation is that these governments have been busy implementing a higher level of welfare state by adopting massive welfare measures and entitlement programs and by implementing destructive regulations and protectionist policies. Over the years, several EU member-states adopted economic protectionist policies that affected trade within the region.
James Roberts and J.D. Foster, of the Heritage Foundation, argue that welfare statism is the major cause or reason why many European nations currently experience serious economic troubles. In their study titled Flashing Red: European Debt Crisis Signals Collapse of Social Welfare State, they state:
The fundamental problem in the European Union is a monetary policy failure. In conjunction with the debilitating effects of the social welfare state, this has led to a broad economic collapse among the lesser states—notably the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), but also some of the EU’s newer members—and it threatens to envelop the greater states.
For years, this collapse among the lesser states was disguised by debt accumulation—countries would borrow (at de facto concessionary interest rates) to overcome their inability to generate adequate income by producing and selling. The lack of actual and prospective growth combined with growing debt burdens has led to a long-term solvency crisis, which has been bubbling up of late into a series of liquidity crises.
Recent real-world facts and economic indicators belie Stepan’s and Skach’s long-outdated claim that parliamentarism is superior to presidentialism. The current experience of many parliamentary nations in Europe show the many dangers of unicameral- or even bicameral- parliamentary system. However, such dangers may also be present under presidential paradigms with weak unicameral or bicameral systems, high protectionism, and high level of welfare state.
Many nations, whether parliamentary or presidential, are economically stable not because of their forms of government, but because of their economic openness, limited government, strong protection of property rights, sound monetary system, and stable rule of law. This is perhaps the obvious reason why “form of government” is NOT among the variables or measures being used by reputable international think tanks like Heritage Foundation and DoingBusiness.Org in measuring a country’s economic success and stability.
However, allow me to point out that such weaknesses present in certain parliamentary governments may also be found in presidential regimes. This is because what matters are the nature of the economic and political policies being rammed down by politicians on the public’s throat. For instance, Clinton was not able to realize his socialized health care reform due to the United States government’s strong systems of checks and balances and separation of powers. However, the Obama regime, which apparently turned the U.S. Congress into a European-style parliament, passed the contentious universal health care reform or ObamaCare within its first year in office. Fortunately, the American people may be able to get rid of the destructive health care measure through the Judicial Review power of the Judiciary, which is one of the three main branches of the American government. Since the ObamaCare’s adoption, many state judges ruled against the constitutionality or validity of the ObamaCare thanks to the American Constitution that upholds individual rights.
Just as there are many variants or forms of parliamentarism, so with presidentialism. This is to say that comparing nations’ economic success or stability according to their forms of government is like comparing apples and oranges. As already stated, many proponents and supporters of parliamentarism are encouraged and attracted by the system’s ability to swiftly facilitate the passage of statist legislation and welfare measures. When they criticize presidentialism ‘per se’, they begin by disparaging the rigidity of America’s presidential-republican system. It appears that since many of these advocates of parliamentarism are welfare statists, they don’t understand- or they refuse to understand- that the so-called inflexibility and rigidity of the American system is the beauty of classical presidentialism.
America’s founding fathers, who first envisioned a bicameral presidential system, understood the nature of the state and government. They knew that government is- or represents- force. Thus, they established a presidential-republican system that limits the powers and arbitrary authority of the government. The following quotation probably describes the underlying motive behind America’s rigid and inflexible presidential system: “That government is best which governs least”. Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration of Independence, said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
The founding fathers of America understood that laws, particularly welfare legislation and arbitrary political measures that are violable of individual rights, should not be uncritically, indiscriminately and briskly implemented to the detriment of the people’s rights, freedom and future. They clearly understood that the most crucial role of the constitution is to limit the arbitrary powers of the state, and that the only proper role of the government is to protect rights and freedoms. Therefore, the form or structure of government, which they so established or implemented, was consistent with the concept of limited government. The principles or systems of separation of powers and checks and balances are the concrete political measures and representations of such a political ideal.
However, the founding fathers were also fully aware of the tendency of individuals, particularly the Americans, to forget – or neglect- the founding principles and philosophy of their fatherland. Thomas Jefferson, in his letter to William Stephens Smith dated 13 Nov. 1787, said, “The people can not be all, and always, well informed.” In what could be known as his most important and most prescient message to the present and future generations of Americans, Jefferson said:
“What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”
We all know that today, previous and current administrations of the U.S. government turned their back on the founding principles of America. This is why a relatively young phalanx of patriots, who collectively call themselves the Tea Party movement, was formed following the election of America’s most notorious Marxist leader, Barack Obama, to warn their rulers of the need to preserve liberties and individual rights.
America is failing, politically and economically, not because of its rigid and inflexible limited government-republican system, but because of the wave of collectivist welfare reforms and arbitrary political measures implemented during the progressive era up to the New Deal era. As I stated in a previous blog, “a number of progressive or statist laws were established from 1890 to 1920, such as the Interstate Commerce Act enacted in 1887 that regulated railroads, the Sherman Antitrust Act enacted in 1890, a law that prevents large firms from controlling a single industry, and the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 implemented during the term of President Woodrow Wilson. Also in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified, which led to the institution of income tax in the United States.” In fact, America is being kept safe by the remaining strength and vigor of its limited-republican-presidential system.
The only remaining weapon of America against the ultra-Marxist policies of Obama, who outed himself just last week as an unapologetic Marxist, is its “rigid”, “inflexible” republican-presidential system and residual patriotism and founding principles. In fact Stalin was aware of this many decades ago when he said: “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.”
One of the commonly attributed advantages to parliamentarism is that it is easier and faster to pass legislation. As already stated, this is especially true under a unicameral parliamentary regime. But it should be noted that the same alleged ‘advantage’ may also be present under a unicameral presidential regime because it would only take one legislative chamber to pass proposals or legislation to be approved by the president or head of the state. So there should be no reason why only unicameral parliamentarism can quickly and easily pass edicts and political measures that can help or destroy people’s rights, freedoms and future. However, my position is that this alleged strong point- or beauty- of unicameral parliamentarism or unicameral presidentialism is actually a big, dangerous disadvantage. I have illustrated how parliamentary regimes in Europe destroyed their economies, as well as the rights and freedoms of their own people, by simply passing a wave of welfare measures, economic regulations, and destructive laws. For instance, since the Greek socialists who controlled the parliament had the power of majority and enjoyed people’s support, they managed to quickly and easily realize welfare legislation and borrowed money from foreign sources so to finance their welfare programs without public knowledge.
Many advocates of parliamentarism both in the Philippines and abroad cite this alleged ‘advantage’ to support their claim and arguments. The only question is: Why is it necessary to easily and quickly pass laws? What kinds of laws should be easily and quickly passed by the parliament? My opinion is that legislation or any kinds of bills or proposals should not be easily and quickly enacted. This is the essence of a limited government.
Many advocates of parliamentarism both in the Philippines and abroad cite this alleged ‘advantage’ to support their claim and arguments. The only question is: Why is it necessary to easily and quickly pass laws? What kinds of laws should be easily and quickly passed by the parliament? My opinion is that legislation or any kinds of bills or proposals should not be easily and quickly enacted. This is the essence of a limited government. This is the reason why the founding fathers of the America so designed their form of government in such a way that it was difficult to pass any kind of legislation or political measure. And this is what the advocates of parliamentarism do not- or refuse- to understand. What is clear is that the system’s advocates, who are mostly welfare statists or leftists, simply root for a form of government that could easily and swiftly deliver or realize their political agenda.
Now, the problem with Stepan’s and Skach’s study is that it was not founded on a solid theoretical construct. In fact, it disregards the concept of politico-economic system and the crucial role it plays in making or destroying a nation. Mere comparison of presidential and parliamentary countries without dwelling further into their politico-economic setup cannot support the undeniably weak conclusion that parliamentary system is superior to presidential system. Like Fred Riggs and other proponents of parliamentarism, Stepan and Skach committed the fallacy of “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation”, which means that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other.
Stepan’s and Skach’s study is actually supported by modern-day supporters of parliamentarism like Lee Drutman who published an article titled Dismissing Gridlock: A Case for Parliamentary Systems (which was cited by the Incorrect Movement in its website). Drutman claimed that parliamentarism is better than presidentialism “because the institutional rules force different actors in the system to work with each other more comprehensively, promoting better and more inclusive compromises.” He opposed presidentialism because it has too much gridlock and that “more checks mean more veto points, which means more potential sand in the gears.”
A true-blue liberal or statist, Drutman actually prefers parliamentary system over the American presidential-Republicanism because he supports the swift passage of welfare legislation and measures like Clinton’s universal health care. He observes that without presidential system’s too much gridlock and checks and balances, “Clinton and the Democrats should have had a mandate to tackle health care reform, and they might well have capitalized on such a mandate under a parliamentary system.”
Instead, Clinton was stymied by conflicts with both another branch of government (Congress) and the opposing party (the Republicans).
Very clearly, most proponents and supporters of parliamentarism support this form of government because of its capability to swiftly implement welfare legislation and measures like socialized health care, food stamps, housing measures, etc. This merely supports my claim that parliamentarism is more consistent with dictatorship and welfare state.
Now let’s go back to Mr. Alicia’s comment. He said: “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 reply to Mr. Alicia’s comment, I made the following statement:
Are you saying that the sole reason why some parliamentary nations are economically stable is because of their form of government? But why do 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 became 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.