Ideological purity and governance -

Ideological purity and governance


In light of the U.S. debt crisis, Fareed Zakaria compares the American system to parliamentary governance.

Some political scientists long hoped that American parties would become more ideologically pure and coherent, like European parties. They seem to have gotten their wish – and the result is abysmal.

Here’s why: America does not have a parliamentary system like Europe’s, in which one party takes control of all levers of political power – executive and legislative – enacts its agenda and then goes back to the voters. Power in the United States is shared by a set of institutions with overlapping authorities – Congress and the presidency. People have to cooperate for the system to work.

See previously: Debt and responsibility


Ideological purity and governance

  1. Big mistake when he says “parliamentary system like Europe’s, in which one party takes control of all levers of political power” – most, if not all countries in Europe, including the UK right now, have coalition governments, so it’s not “one party” taking control.

  2. What we need to do is get ideology OUT of govt, and deal with problems on a practical basis….not ‘one size fits all’

  3. Zakaria: The Tea Party venerates the Founding Fathers. It should note that the one thing on which they all agreed was that adversarial political parties were bad for the American republic.


    Edward Larson –  A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 …

    The bitter infighting and the sophisticated political jockeying of 1800 spelled the end of any idea that America would be governed by enlightened consensus, resulting instead in the two-party system we know today. Readers will find many similarities between the intense electioneering of Adams and Jefferson, and the heated political races of today. For instance, Larson delineates debates about security and the Alien and Sedition Acts, the complex calculus of the Electoral College and the ad hominem remarks of commentators.

  4. Founding Fathers were against parties or factions, not adversarial politics. Parties put their interests ahead of voters. But humans apparently like to belong to groups, don’t want individual pols that don’t represent a particular party. 

    What is happening now in America would be exactly what Founding Fathers wanted. Elite can’t just continue to bankrupt America anymore, regular people are being represented in Congress now and they don’t appreciate elite and their enormous spending. 

    Plague of ‘A’ Students:

    The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. We sit once more packed into the vast, dreary confines of a freshman survey course—“Rocks for Jocks,” “Nuts and Sluts,” “Darkness at Noon.” 

    At the lectern is a twerp of a grad student—the prototypical A student—insecure, overbearing, full of himself and contempt for his students. All we want is an easy three credits to fulfill a curriculum requirement in science, social science, or fine arts. 

    We’ve got a mimeographed copy of last year’s final with multiple choice answers already written on our wrists. The grad student could skip his classes, the way we intend to, but there the s.o.b. is, taking attendance. (How else to explain this year’s census?)

    America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. 

    This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: “A students work for B students.” Or, as a businessman friend of mine put it, “B students work for C students—A students teach.”

    • Unfortunately, putting the C (probably D) student in charge didn’t help in the Bush years, seeing as the U.S. is in such dire financial straits primarily because of insane defense spending and the Bush tax cuts.