Posts tagged institutional design

This would make a great challenge for students in my POL 102 course—or even my POL 343 (Comparative Democratic Institutions) course. Are there any institutions that you like from other countries that you would like to see considered in the US?
From theatlantic:

This is the first article in a new series The Atlantic is publishing in partnership with Common Good, a nonpartisan government reform organization, devoted to remaking government within budget and without suffocating the American spirit. Each month, America the Fixable will identify a different challenge facing the United States — regulation, school bureaucracy, healthcare, civil service, campaign finance reform — and, drawing together a range of expert voices on the topic, offer potential solutions in articles, online discussions, and video reports. This month, the series tackles the scourge of obsolete laws.

Congress treats most laws as if they were the Ten Commandments — except they’re more like the 10 million commandments. Most legislative programs do not codify timeless principles of right and wrong. They are tools of social management. These laws allocate social resources — almost 70 percent of federal revenue in 2010 was consumed by three entitlement programs enacted a half century or more ago. Congress almost never goes back to rationalize these programs. Running government today is like trying to run a business using every idea every manager ever had.
At this point, Democracy is basically run by dead people. We elect new representatives, but society is run by policy ideas and political deals from decades ago. Congress has a tragic misconception of its responsibility — it sees itself as a body that makes new law, not one that makes sense of old laws. […]
“The difficulty lies not in the new ideas,” John Maynard Keynes observed, “but in escaping from the old ones.” American government is trapped in structures of its own making. The essential first step in rescuing America is a spring cleaning. It’s hard to fix things until we can make fresh choices.

If you could eliminate one obsolete law, which would you choose and why? Submit a post and let us know.

This would make a great challenge for students in my POL 102 course—or even my POL 343 (Comparative Democratic Institutions) course. Are there any institutions that you like from other countries that you would like to see considered in the US?

From theatlantic:

This is the first article in a new series The Atlantic is publishing in partnership with Common Good, a nonpartisan government reform organization, devoted to remaking government within budget and without suffocating the American spirit. Each month, America the Fixable will identify a different challenge facing the United States — regulation, school bureaucracy, healthcare, civil service, campaign finance reform — and, drawing together a range of expert voices on the topic, offer potential solutions in articles, online discussions, and video reports. This month, the series tackles the scourge of obsolete laws.

Congress treats most laws as if they were the Ten Commandments — except they’re more like the 10 million commandments. Most legislative programs do not codify timeless principles of right and wrong. They are tools of social management. These laws allocate social resources — almost 70 percent of federal revenue in 2010 was consumed by three entitlement programs enacted a half century or more ago. Congress almost never goes back to rationalize these programs. Running government today is like trying to run a business using every idea every manager ever had.

At this point, Democracy is basically run by dead people. We elect new representatives, but society is run by policy ideas and political deals from decades ago. Congress has a tragic misconception of its responsibility — it sees itself as a body that makes new law, not one that makes sense of old laws. […]

“The difficulty lies not in the new ideas,” John Maynard Keynes observed, “but in escaping from the old ones.” American government is trapped in structures of its own making. The essential first step in rescuing America is a spring cleaning. It’s hard to fix things until we can make fresh choices.

If you could eliminate one obsolete law, which would you choose and why? Submit a post and let us know.

I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (via tofias)

If you were drafting a new constitution (as they’re doing in Libya and Egypt), what would you do?

For starters, you might start with some considerations on drafting a constitution from this interview (in The Christian Science Monitor) with Andrew Reynolds, a noted constitutional engineer.

Proposal to reform [Chile's] binomial system

Greg Weeks has an update on his previous post about possible reforms to Chile’s binomial electoral system, which I also discussed.

He outlines a joint proposal by the (centrist) Christian Democratic Party and the (center-right) Renovación Nacional:

  1. The president can dissolve the legislature
  2. The president chooses a prime minister who must be approved by a majority in the legislature
  3. Proportional representation in the legislature (with specifics to be worked out later)
  4. Term limits for all positions
  5. System of primaries
  6. Public financing of political parties

I agree with Greg: This is a radical departure for Chile. Personally, I would prefer Chile return to its pre-1973 “parliamentarized presidential” system (in which the legislature selects the president in the event no candidate wins a majority). Although I like the idea of greater “parliamentarization” by giving the president the power to call for new elections (though I would also like the legislature to have that power, as in parliamentary systems).

I’m not particularly a fan of semi-presidential systems. But it seems what is being discussed here is not a semi-presidential system, if Greg’s right that the prime minister (as in Peru) would be merely window dressing. 

However, one virtue of the existing Chilean system is that it encourages (or, some might say, forces) coalition governments. For better or worse, the binomial system has neatly divided Chile into two blocks: Christian Democrats and Socialists vs. Conservatives. I would worry that a list-PR electoral system combined with presidentialism would produce either weak executives or "delegative" executives.

Parliamentarized presidentialism worked well in Bolivia. It diffused extreme polarization in the 1980s and allowed for broad coalition governments that could govern effectively. It broke down in the late 1990s. Partly (as many journalistic observers argue) because of broad rejection of neoliberalism and/or lack of faith in the traditional (or “systemic”) parties. However, as I argue in my work (expanded upon in my dissertation), a major contributing factor was the adoption of a mixed-member electoral system.

Chile should reform its system, which his not fairly representative. But it should retain institutional levers that encourage coalition formation—especially if it allows for coalition-building to be more fluid than it currently is.

Piñera and [Chile's] binomial system

Greg Weeks at Two Weeks Notice comments on the possibility that Chile’s president, Sebastian Piñera, may be joining the (growing?) bandwagon for electoral system reform in Chile.

It’s only inevitable, I suppose, that electoral system reform fever would reach Chile. I’m partly sad, because Chile’s binomial system—a platypus of an electoral system made for interesting teaching (as did Uruguay’s ley de lemas, or double simultaneous voting, system).

Obviously, the binomial system is just a holdover from the Pinochet era, when the outgoing dictatorship sought to safeguard its policies and virtually ensure a (slim) conservative majority. That system has outlived its use, and electoral volatility and voter antipathy is already eroding the party system tied to the binomial system, making it increasingly unwieldy. But what would replace it? And what would its effects be on the party system—and on governance—in Chile?

(I ask these questions with an eye to my INST 316 seminar on electoral systems and party systems, in which Chile is one of our case studies.)

The AV Referendum Debate: A timeline | openDemocracy
Interested in electoral system reform? Here’s a nice overview/timeline of the reform effort under way in Britain. Voters there voted today in a referendum on whether or not to adopt an alternative vote (AV) electoral system.
openDemocracy is an e-journal about international current affairs based in Britain. Its authors include academics (usually British), as well as journalists & activists. 
(For the record, and despite the campaign poster above, I have a soft spot for ranked-ordered voting systems like AV.)

The AV Referendum Debate: A timeline | openDemocracy

Interested in electoral system reform? Here’s a nice overview/timeline of the reform effort under way in Britain. Voters there voted today in a referendum on whether or not to adopt an alternative vote (AV) electoral system.

openDemocracy is an e-journal about international current affairs based in Britain. Its authors include academics (usually British), as well as journalists & activists. 

(For the record, and despite the campaign poster above, I have a soft spot for ranked-ordered voting systems like AV.)

Brazil to eliminate presidential reelection?

Nice to see a Latin America country going in the opposite direction of expanding presidential powers. From westernhemisphereanalysis:

A proposal passed the Brazilian Senate that would change the presidential term to 5 years but would not allow for reelection.

Comissão de Reforma Política do Senado aprova fim da reeleição (O Globo)

Who rules Iran? | The Week

Explaining the Iranian political structure to undergraduates is always a challenge. In the past, I’ve really liked this Guardian interactive. But this “in-depth” briefing from The Week does a pretty nice job, too.

I designed a little “constitutional design” simulation based around the fictional land of Oz (specifically, the Oz found in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West). The whole thing goes along w/ a country dossier I cooked up. Basically, students have to design an institutional framework for a formerly “sultanistic” regime that could, w/ luck & pluck, transition successfully to a democracy.

I designed a little “constitutional design” simulation based around the fictional land of Oz (specifically, the Oz found in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West). The whole thing goes along w/ a country dossier I cooked up. Basically, students have to design an institutional framework for a formerly “sultanistic” regime that could, w/ luck & pluck, transition successfully to a democracy.