The genius of Westminster


Fareed Zakaria wonders if America would be better off with a parliament.

Remember, the political battle surrounding the debt ceiling is actually impossible in a parliamentary system because the executive controls the legislature. There could not be a public spectacle of the two branches of government squabbling and holding the country hostage.

If we’re in for another five years of this squabbling in the U.S., we are going to make presidential systems look pretty bad indeed.


The genius of Westminster

  1. Neither system is perfect, but I think the Westminister model is definitely superior to that schmozzle to the south of us.

  2. Genius of Westminster is one person, one vote, in recognizable ridings and MPs can be held to account every few years. 

    American Founding Fathers were suspicious of many British things but they knew to keep one person, one vote. 

    Canadian Parliament is divided, just like Canada, but we are just not as noisy or bolshie as Americans are. People often don’t agree with themselves from one day to next, never mind what millions of other people think. There is no consensus on what the right policy is for Canada and its future. 

    American pols are not really beholden to their parties and reflect average opinion much better. 

    Also, Canadian msm is Liberal, and rather dire, so our media does not reflect full range of regular opinions heard across Canada every day.

    • Americans are bolshie?   Oh brother, now I’ve heard everything.

  3. America is so seriously divided, and it isn’t only politics. Politicians should be an example, it is a shame really!

  4. “…There could not be a public spectacle of the two branches of government squabbling and holding the country hostage….”

    Yes well, let’s see what happens when we start giving Senators an electoral mandate and see what happens.

    If more people voted for me than your average MP, (which is what will happen) I’d be tempted to think my fellow Senators and I shouldn’t just stand by when parliament did something we didn’t think served our voter’s interests.

    Like say going massively into debt.

    Just sayin’.

    • Exactly why we don’t need an elected senate.

  5. Technically the Westminster system still requires the UK Parliament to pass a borrowing bill each year if the deficit is of a sufficient size.  This could really only be a problem in a minority parliament when the Party that controls the executive doesn’t also control the legislature.

    Until recently Canada’s legislature also had to pass borrowing bills in order to run deficits larger than $3B.  Just before the recent recession however the law was changed to allow the government to borrow as much money as it wants so long as four Cabinet Ministers sign off on it. 

    • The benefit of a Westminster-system, of course, is that when a government does present a budget, its defeat will trigger an election which will usually either confirm the government, or replace it (Belgium currenlty being a bit of an exception to the usual rule after elections).  The American system in which the legislators and president remain in place no matter what the outcome of any legislative vote, pending the next election cycle, seems to be at the root of their dysfunction.

  6. The US system is predicated on Legislative Branch members harboring “goodwill” to do what’s best for the country. The Westminister system harbours no such illusions.

    • Haven’t looked at it too closely lately, have you?

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