Presidential V. Parlaimentary

Presidential v. Parliamentary System
Katie Ardiff

Walter Bagehot, in writing about the unwritten English Constitution, compares its parliamentary system to the presidential system of the United States in order to demonstrate its supremacy through comparison. He compares several different aspects of each system, including citizen participation, efficiency, accountability and representation. His arguments, both in their details and their fundamental premises, contain errors and misrepresent several facts and ideas. Because of these errors and through my own understanding of the presidential system, I am inclined to disagree with Bagehot’s argument.
Bagehot first criticizes the disconnect between the executive and legislative branch in a presidential system. He points out that in order to get legislation passed, a president’s request must be sent through a complicated network on congress officials. However, this circumstance is justified through the separation of powers, which discourages the president from being the source of legislation.
      He further criticizes the tension between the executive and legislative branch. In a parliamentary system, the prime minister has the power to compel legislation through threat of cabinet resignation or dissolution. This action, however, goes against the founding principles in the United States Constitution, which was written with the idea that no branch would have undue power over the others. In a presidential system, if the president had the power to control the election cycle and meetings of congress, his influence would be almost infinite. In short, tension is intentionally inherent in the presidential system because it balances the power and creates a competitive environment for competent legislation.
      A third criticism Bagehot explains is the citizen apathy in the United States. He attributes this to a lack of a “crisis” feeling in government, or a feeling that one cannot influence government’s actions....