A Coasian argument for a parliamentary system

Asher Meir is a policy economist at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a policy think tank in Jerusalem. He sent me a very interesting defense of parliamentary systems, which utilizes Coasian reasoning. The rest of the post is written by Meir. (Please keep comments polite, as this is a guest post) :

A while back Scott made reference to the advantages of a parliamentary system. As someone with experience with policy work in both systems (in 1980s a junior staffer in Washington, in recent years a policy economist at a think tank in Israel) I would like to point out the many advantages, in terms of governance and in terms of democracy (basically the opposite of democratic deficit) in a parliamentary system.

As an organizing principle, I would describe the advantage as follows: The “externality” approach to public goods and bads is basically dual to a “missing markets” approach. (Coase was very busy with this.) People can’t buy and sell pollution, national security etc. The political system creates markets in public policy, where constituencies trade policy preferences.

The bottom line is that a parliamentary system has many more margins where preferences can be traded. It is a much richer market. There are more parties, and with a coalition virtually every decision is a compromise = a deal = a utility-promoting exchange.

To continue with a Coasian orientation, we can view political parties as firms. Just as in the market much of the organization of production is done in a control mode within firms, while other aspects are in agreements between firms, likewise in a parliamentary system some of the work of aggregation of preferences is within parties, who are good at advancing the outstanding distinct interests of certain constituencies, and other aspects are embodied in the markets: choosing a party to vote for or join, and in deals made between parties. The market has some optimal distribution of number and sizes of firms; optimizing the market for aggregating preferences also has some optimal number and size. The chance that it is two firms with about half the market for each would seem to be small.

Here is one example: In Israel 16 seats in a parliament of 120 belong to ultra-Orthodox parties. Virtually everything these parties want is unpopular among all 104 other Knesset members. However, the price of these compromises is low for other Knesset members and these parties don’t make many demands beyond their narrow interests. They don’t have a huge amount of political capital but they spend it all on a few policies that are very important to them.

Another, complementary issue: Ministers in a parliamentary system are politicians. I observe that the degree of regulatory capture is much less. The person running the Education Ministry is not an education professional, the person running the Health Ministry is not a health professional. They are not experts but as we know experts are almost always captured. Second of all, every minister wants to be Prime Minister someday and has a very powerful incentive to make a successful reform that will make him/her memorable to voters. At the very least a successful reform will guarantee a high place in the list and an additional term, it will give a good chance to move up to a more powerful ministry, and in some cases can help catapult someone to Prime Minister. Of course the ministries themselves are divvied up by agreement = exchange so each party has to decide which policies or which politicians are most important to them. Within the parties deals are also taking place.

Every minister wants a lot of money and power for his ministry, but there is a government. There is only so much money and only so much power so these are also assigned by negotiation. Each minister has a powerful incentive to make the best possible case for his ministry. It’s like a court where good decisions are stimulated by division of labor between the defense and the prosecution who make carefully argued cases to the judge. (In this case the government and ultimately the public.) Of course power has a lot to do with it, but 1. even someone with a lot of power wants to “spend” it judiciously 2. power itself is accumulated by people who represent a constituency and are empowered to make deals to the common benefit of varying constituencies. Of course parties also compete for politicians. A politician can have an individual constituency and can choose the firm which will help him/her advance his/her individual political career alongside the interests of the private constituency.

In the US I see it more as a “market maker” model rather than an exchange model. The President decides all these margins him/herself. The problems with this are myriad. There is a cognitive issue – even if the President is politically accountable to the same spectrum of constituencies as a parliament, s/he has limited bandwidth. There is no wisdom of crowds. Second of all, the President is not accountable to everyone, there’s just a limit to who can have his/her ear. Finally, if you are a market maker you have market power. If there is a deal with surplus which will only get made if you broker it, you will be able to appropriate some of that surplus. This is a big drag on the market.

We like to think of markets in terms of knowledge + incentives. A business has the most knowledge about costs and benefits in their area of specialty, and they have the incentives to create value because they appropriate it in profits. In a parliamentary system, politicians are better able to position and brand themselves such that there is some “line of business” where they know the customer and they know the costs, and to empower these politicians to make constructive exchanges with other politicians.

Your vote is almost never wasted (probabilistically) in a parliamentary system. I have the right to vote in New Jersey but I never bother. No vote or bloc of thousands of votes ever moved New Jersey in a presidential election in my lifetime. But in a parliamentary system, there are always a few seats hanging on just a few votes. In Israel parties can trade their excess votes so the final few thousand votes can affect almost anyone. Virtually every party is biting its nails even when there only a few thousand votes left to count.

As a small-c conservative, I am not personally a big believer in radical change, and since the Constitution has been around for over 230 years I would not be in a rush to change it. Probably my favorite quote from an economist is from the pioneer in innovation economics Fritz Machlup: “If we did not have a patent system, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge of its economic consequences, to recommend instituting one. But since we have had a patent system for a long time, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge, to recommend abolishing it.” (BTW I recently read that Edith Penrose was co-author of this statement.)

On the other hand, this venerable regime does recently seem to be showing worrying signs of wear. Above all I am a believer in voter/consumer sovereignty so if my thoughts make the electorate better informed, they are a contribution to a better America. (And insofar as Great Britain had a parliamentary system at the time when the Colonies insolently set up their own commonwealth, perhaps a parliament for the US is the truly conservative option?)



29 Responses to “A Coasian argument for a parliamentary system”

  1. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. February 2021 at 11:03

    The essay sounds logical in itself, but I’m missing a bit of a practical view into reality. I don’t quite see the relevant (positive) differences yet.

    Israel, for example, is a parliamentary democracy. But it is not apparent that Bibi Netanyahu has recognizably less power than the American President. He might be even stronger.

    The same is true for Germany. Germany is also a parliamentary democracy, yet Chancellor Merkel is very powerful. There is also currently no German minister who stands in her way. All of Merkel’s relevant competitors are not ministers. A chancellor such as Merkel is not stupid after all; she takes strict care that she has no serious rivals in the position of minister. It is her government after all.

    Also, overall, Congress seems to me to be much more powerful than most parliaments in most parliamentary democracies. Why is that?

    One must not forget a major disadvantage of parliamentary democracy: The legislative and executive branches are very closely interwoven. The executive branch basically controls the legislative branch and governs through it. Don’t forget that. Basically, the legislature dances strictly to the tune of the executive. There is hardly any relevant disagreement, so to speak, because the governing party always represents the majority in parliament.

    Situations where Congress and the President face each other or are even dominated by different parties do not exist in a parliamentary democracy.

    Parliamentary democracy is actually a perfect form of government for a strongman who wants to rule through. No one can really stop him. Don’t forget that Weimar was a parliamentary democracy.

  2. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    1. February 2021 at 11:52

    If the argument is that a parliamentary system is more effective than a presidential system, then it first needs to be asserted that an effective government is a good thing. If it is instead the case that the use of government power typically leads to bad outcomes, then the better form of government is actually the less effective one.

  3. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    1. February 2021 at 12:04

    This essay would be significantly improved if it focused on the section where it discusses the benefit of having MPs in charge of cabinet departments.

    The sections on the benefits of multiple parties or votes not being wasted are irrelevant to the question of Parliamentary vs. Presidential system. Those are questions related to the structure of the voting system.

    The US has single district first-past-the-post voting. Almost every country that has this stabilizes on two large parties. There might be some additional parties, but it’s almost always two large ones. That is the because of the nature of that system.

    If you have a different voting system, regardless of Parliamentary or Presidential system for choosing the head of government and filling cabinet ministers, then you get different results. If the US adopted a constitutional amendment adopting the same procedure that Israel has for filling the Knesset, then you would see the development of multiple parties here too.

    That being said, I would also note that Israel is known for the government almost always bein dissolved before finishing a Parliament. Other pure proportional systems (Italy) often have a great ideal of instability, which only seems to be ameliorated by electoral thresholds (e.g. party must obtain a 5% vote to achieve representation).

  4. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    1. February 2021 at 12:20


    It’s never good to have ineffective government. That’s how countries slide into banana republicanism. You always want a government that’s highly effective and efficient, though you might want it to be smaller. Part of what makes effective government is government that knows its limitations.

  5. Gravatar of Jens Jens
    1. February 2021 at 12:35

    Quoting a comment above:

    Parliamentary democracy is actually a perfect form of government for a strongman who wants to rule through. No one can really stop him. Don’t forget that Weimar was a parliamentary democracy.

    No kind of political institution can stop a strongman, supported by a veritable and superior horde of street thugs. And no form of precaution will help us if a supernova should explode not too far away.

    But apart from that, there are two other aspects of parliamentary democracies that promote coherence.

    On the one hand, it is particularly attractive for the strongest party to act in a consensual and not demarcating way. It then has the most power options when as few other parties as possible are forced to strictly separate themselves from it. The best example of this is the CDU in Germany, which is able to absorb almost any form of political competition.

    And the internal organization and discourse work of the parties in the coalition system makes it easier for different or diverging personal preferences to align. One will interpret this as a hidden, structural coercion. The other as a free decision in the face of otherwise difficult to avoid dilemmas.

  6. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    1. February 2021 at 12:39

    Scott correctly scared everyone away by telling his raucous readers to be polite—-.

    This is an interesting and very complex subject. And it was surely the parliamentary system that functioned as a guide post for the now denounced founding fathers. The funny thing about the US is the most criticized aspect of our system is our EC. Yet, I would argue it is conceptually very similar to a parliamentary system. For example, the Prime Minister may not have a plurality of votes, as she/he may have their party win districts by lower totals. And for sure, I do not feel the need to have the parliamentary system defended, as it works quite well.

    Mr Weir is correct, however, in that we collect our votes at the state level, whereas parliamentary systems collect their votes on the district level—-a lower percent of the population—so as far as the president is concerned, Americans will have a lower tendency to vote if their state is significantly for one party.I suppose we can vote the same way—without it being parliamentary–i.e., where the legislative body has as its head—the had of the country (I ignore countries for the purpose of this essay that also have a president—who have far less power and does not have the ability to chose the Prime Minister)

    I think two parties work–when they work—when cross party coalitions work–even or especially–when it is at the margin.

    In any event, I wish our problem were structure of governmnet. Today it feels like its cultural—which is upstream from politics–at least today it is.

  7. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    1. February 2021 at 13:12

    Michael Sandifer said:

    “It’s never good to have ineffective government. That’s how countries slide into banana republicanism. You always want a government that’s highly effective and efficient, though you might want it to be smaller. Part of what makes effective government is government that knows its limitations.”

    Thanks for the reply. I think you’re making a very strong claim. If “it’s NEVER good to have ineffective government, […] you always want a government that’s highly effective and efficient,” then what about when governments in history were doing bad things? The ineffectiveness of the southern states’ governments allowed many slaves to escape to the north. But the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made government much more effective at forcing people back into slavery.

    You say that “part of what makes effective government is government that knows its limitations.” But I think this statement presupposes government as a coherent entity. I’m reminded of the many posts Scott has written about “Public Opinion.” I think that the typical politician wants to increase his power. I think the typical politician knows his limitations and in fact wants to expand them. Meir said himself in the post that “every minister wants to be Prime Minister someday.”

    Politicians and governments have a strong incentive to do what is popular, not what is right. Sometimes popular things are right, so governments do the right thing as a byproduct of doing the popular thing. But that is not an entity that I am interesting in making more effective, efficient, or powerful.

  8. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. February 2021 at 13:17


    no form of precaution will help us if a supernova should explode not too far away.

    A dictator is not a natural phenomenon like a supernova. There are obviously structures that make such a takeover easier than other structures.

    As I said, in a parliamentary democracy, the government and parliament are not really independent as in the US. The seizure of power always takes place in a joint step in a parliamentary democracy. This is not hard to figure out, and makes it way easier for any strongman.

    An answer that implies that a dictator is an unstoppable supernova that will overcome any obstacle is simply wrong and not really a meaningful answer.

    On the one hand, it is particularly attractive for the strongest party to act in a consensual and not demarcating way.

    This is a special situation in Germany, which also does not really have much to do with a parliamentary democracy. As I said, in a parliamentary system, you can govern “through” very well, which makes it more “effective” in some eyes, for better or worse.

    In reality, the US system actually relies on your praised cooperation because, as I said, President and Congress are often controlled by different parties. The two parties don’t have to cooperate, of course, but then the system becomes relatively “ineffective,” in the sense that not much major legislation will be passed, which can have a good side as well of course, depending on what you want from a government.

  9. Gravatar of Tom Davies Tom Davies
    1. February 2021 at 13:54

    This argument seems to also depend on having proportional representation — there are plenty of parliamentary systems (e.g. the UK and Australia) which are close to being two-party systems, at least in their lower houses.

  10. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    1. February 2021 at 16:28

    As one who has relatives living in Israel (my late mother spent the last 12 years of her life there), it is difficult to take this essay seriously. When is the last time Israel had a stable government? It’s not only the ultra-Orthodox parties that hold the government hostage but the Arab list parties as well as there is an unspoken agreement that no major party will form a government with them. One can also look at Italy whose government was just dissolved last week.

  11. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    1. February 2021 at 17:40


    as pointed out above, there is a huge difference between systems with proportional representation, and first-past-the-port systems. Proportional representation seems more in line with negotiation and representation of all interests, but leads to instability, exaggerated power of small parties etc. Real life systems attempt to quell these drawbacks with extra rules on small parties. Otherwise, balkanization (endlessly changing coalitions with destructive scheming) is a real possibility, and equilibria tend to be multiple with few or no global fitness peaks (many so-so solutions, few or no great ones). That is not just a hunch, it has been researched, e.g. google Axelrod on Italy.

    And I’d also have to agree with Christian List on the non-separation of powers in a parliamentary democracy. This was nicely described by Hayek (Law, Legislation and Liberty) and is a notorious feature of many European democracies (not France, which does have a presidential system).

    So to sum it up, agreed on the market and negotiation benefits, but since the market is not really open, equilibria uncertain, and separation of powers murky, it just ends up a different set of trade-offs.

    The real power of democracy is not its actual practice: Implementing the “people’s will” is impossible, due to the impossibility of aggregation (Condorcet all the way down to Arrow). It’s in the threat (real or implied) of elections that keeps democracy working and results in better government. This is what keeps governments in line with (roughly) the “popular will” even in many less-democratic countries.

  12. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    1. February 2021 at 22:00

    Thanks Asher for an excellent post. I have for most of my life been certain of the argument put forward by mbka, Christian List and others that presidential systems are preferable because they are less vulnerable to balkanization and because they offer a truer separation of power between the executive and administrative branches. But something has gone wrong here in the shining example of presidential systems over the last 20 years that has shaken my confidence.

    It’s not small parties balkanizing our politics that threaten us but our two major parties moving out towards their extremes and hollowing out the center. Perhaps if the major parties were to shed their extremists to parties like the ultra-orthodox ones you speak of in the Knesset, the major parties might rebalance towards the center. After watching our two political parties prove increasingly incapable of solving problems over the last 20 years I’m inclined to agree that our two “firm” market is proving insufficiently adaptable to address the challenges we face. I do believe there are dangers of not separating the legislative branch from the executive but, after having just lived through the Trump debacle, I’ve come to see that there are also grave dangers when the legislative and executive branches are at each other’s throats.

    Also, after reading your post, I browsed a couple of studies which found that parliamentary systems tended to outperform presidential systems economically and in their ability to stave off authoritarianism. I understand and share your anxiety about dramatically changing a system that has been as successful as ours here. But I also have a great deal of anxiety about what will happen to our system if we don’t change our current trajectory.

  13. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    1. February 2021 at 22:01

    Actually, I owe mbka an apology. On rereading your post, I realize that I oversimplified your position.

  14. Gravatar of Michael Makdad Michael Makdad
    1. February 2021 at 22:36

    The argument about the advantages of incentives from ministers being ambitious politicians seems right on to me, but some of the argument about the advantages from negotiations to form a ruling coalition among multiple parties seem to me to depend on proportional representation rather than being inherent to a parliamentary system. Those incentives don’t work as well in first-past-the-post voting, particularly if districts are gerrymandered into rotten boroughs.

  15. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    2. February 2021 at 00:10

    “It’s not small parties balkanizing our politics that threaten us but our two major parties moving out towards their extremes and hollowing out the center.”

    Two cheeks of the same ar*e?

    “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
    Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
    Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism—offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism. “

  16. Gravatar of Asher Asher
    2. February 2021 at 05:16

    Asher Meir here, I’ll just add a few words. 1. I agree with the first two commentators that having an effective system has downsides, and I think it’s clear that some of the dysfunction in the US system was intentionally built in by the founding fathers to avoid misuse of power. 2. The main insight I want to get across is the benefit of having many margins for trading in constituent preferences. I agree that these mechanisms are not perfectly correlated with parliamentary/presidential systems. On average parliaments have many more margins, but proportional vs. district systems and other details can affect the number and quality of margins. 3. Obviously there are other desirable characteristics of electoral systems besides providing complete markets, could be that there is a stability trade-off, I did not consider that issue.

  17. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. February 2021 at 06:39


    no need for apologies, you have always been exceedingly polite and restrained in your comments.

    Great discussion overall, and conspicuous absence of the “we are humans and we are coming” cabal.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. February 2021 at 09:07

    Asher, Thanks for responding.

    Everyone, Thanks for some good comments.

    My personal preference is for proportional representation, not first past the post, but that’s mostly for selfish reasons. I’d finally have a party I could vote for. I can understand how American conservatives and liberals would be fine with first past the post, as they already have a party that mostly represents their views.

    I’d also emphasize that there is no reason to assume that any given system is best for all times and all places. Thus in the US we have gone from non-polarized politics in the 1960s (not polarized by party—there were deep policy divides), to polarized politics today. The same system in a formal sense might work very differently in those two cultures.

  19. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    2. February 2021 at 09:14

    We can’t forget that the power of small, regional parties to use their ability to let other parties to pass their legislation can be used for long term plays that harm the state.

    See the Catalonian independence movement: Not exactly popular in the 70s and 80s, but they used the situations where their “unique” ideas were key for a national party to pass legislation to, in practice, turn their regional education departments into political arms of their independence movement: Good luck being a teacher without being pro-independence! Add 30 years, and the kids that were raised with propaganda are now voters, and any national politician that made said pacts has been out of politics so long that they face no consequences. We’d be in the same boat with, say, the NRA party.

    Back to Spain and ministries: Nobody leads a small ministry for life, and many are using them to move up, and moving up doesn’t necessarily mean doing a good job. Spain’s health secretary is running for, in practice, a state presidency. He decided that the best political calculus was to stop states from being able to place useful movement restrictions, purely as a way to boost political support. So now we have other states begging for being allowed to have strong lockdowns, but being stopped from doing so by a minister’s political aspirations.

    What we really need is more disaggregated federal governments. What would Americans do if they were able to vote for a healthcare policy? trade? minimum wage? military spending? The one size fits all is getting us many outcomes people don’t want, because it’s impossible to vote for what they want: There are few options, and governability is minimal, as getting 60 votes in the senate, control of the house, the presidency, and a supreme court that won’t just overreach in their veto capabilities is just very difficult. No wonder Presidents rely so much on executive orders, as it’s the only way anything gets done.

  20. Gravatar of sarah sarah
    2. February 2021 at 11:18

    I think Sumner prefers a parliament, because like most elitist’s he hates that farmers in rural Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming get equal representation. It sickens him to know that those people get to make their own laws away from the centralized hand of Washington.

    But that was the whole point of having a republic. It was to keep people really far away who had no stake in your life and community from overreaching.

    If I was alive in the 1790s, I’d side with Jefferson.

  21. Gravatar of henry henry
    2. February 2021 at 11:46

    Parliaments can be corrupted a lot easier, because the prime minister is elected by those that are in power. If those in power are corrupted, a vicious cycle of tyranny will ensue. It’s not a good idea, and we’ve seen how often it fails.

    The President in a republic has a very unique job. His job is to answer to the republic itself, to the American people in general, and to express the will of the people over petty politics. In some ways, the President is there to place a check on the absurd, and to stand above party loyalty.

    For example, Trump stood up to governors who were arbitrarily shutting down businesses and enforcing draconian laws. His voice represented the vast majority of the American people who simply wanted to get on with their lives. Of course, he doesn’t have the power to intervene into state affairs, but that vocalization may have prevented other states from following the ridiculous NY and CA model. Btw, does CA have any businesses left? lol.

    The republican form of government is not the problem: the government structure is legendary world over (federalist papers are extremely popular), and the best application of Lockean ethics to date. The issue, rather, is special interest and the size of the government. The government today is simply too big. And the politicians are beholden to special interests to fund their campaigns. The solution for this is the same solution used in the 1976 presidential campaign between Carter and Ford – that is, tax payer funding. In other words, a tiny portion of your income goes to funding these campaigns, and both sides get equal dollars. Nobody else has influence. Special interest groups should be banned, and politicians should be arrested for dealing with them. Such accountability would ensure that politicians are not worried about losing campaigns because special interests refuse to pay for them.

  22. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    2. February 2021 at 13:38

    To your point about proportional representation, have you considered mixed-member proportional representation?

    Basically, you would take our current single district system, add in a party/list vote, and then true up the share each party/list has in Congress based on the party/list vote. For instance, if party A wins 5% of the seats in single district contests but 25% of the party list vote, then they get additional representation in the House so that the total share is 25%. You can also have a threshold so that parties/lists that receive less than N% of the vote do not receive additional seats.

    New Zealand famously uses it, as well as Germany and some other places.

  23. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. February 2021 at 16:01


    my personal experience with proportional representation is that I still did not always vote for the party that best reflected my beliefs. That’s because libertarian style parties are so unpopular that they were often assured to miss the cutoff anyway (4 or 5%, don’t remember which one it was). And then my vote would have been wasted again.

    And, the loony squad has discovered this thread…

  24. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. February 2021 at 16:07


    one more thing. The biggest personal / emotional drawback of proportional systems, for me, is that you vote for a list (party) and not a person. As a result, you don’t have a representative “assigned” to you. You can’t “call your representative” because a whole bunch of people vaguely represent your district. When I lived in the US, these ads saying “call your congressman” would astound me because for the first time in my life I realized, you can actually do that?

  25. Gravatar of ee ee
    2. February 2021 at 20:50

    Thanks Asher, fun read. It definitely seems like there is not enough negotiation in today’s Congress. Part of the issue is dislike between the two parties. Maybe if we had a larger set of parties there wouldn’t be as much strong dislike between two parties, or the effect would be less important. A multi-winner ranked choice vote seems like the easiest way to introduce proportional representation with multiple parties.

    The minister section doesn’t seem too different from what we have in the US. Just like you described with ministers, in the US our agency heads are ambitious politicians who defend their budget.

  26. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    3. February 2021 at 09:58

    Many of the margins for deal-making and compromise were destroyed by the 17th Amendment. Senators used to represent the interests of the 50 state legislatures, professional politicians all. The professional pols know all about negotiation and compromise. The Senators they chose tended to be negotiators, not ideologues. That changed with direct elections of senators, as winning Senate elections has nothing to do with your ability and/or willingness to compromise. In fact, senators who make too many deals will be portrayed by their election opponents as “unprincipled”, i.e., not ideological enough.

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. February 2021 at 10:21

    John, I haven’t studied that approach.

  28. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    3. February 2021 at 11:47

    A really good discussion thanks to a really good blog post by Asher and good moderation by Scott.

    @John Hall
    It’s not a bad system per se, but mbka has also hinted at the problems. I can speak mainly for Germany:

    50% of the politicians are elected via lists. But this also means that these politicians are often backbenchers, they have not won a constituency, they have not won directly against other candidates. They dont really have to care about the voter per se. The party is way more important. The focus of interest shifts to the party, in the party you have to woo the officials to get a good position on the infamous list.

    Another problem is fair representation, which mbka addressed as well. We are a rural constituency, and only the direct candidate ever enters the Bundestag. In our neighboring district however, there are four MPs. The population size is identical to ours, but they have a large attractive city, so politicians like to live there.

    I did not understand this point either. It is not forbidden for a minister to be a technocrat, it is just not common in some countries.

    Your other point is also true. The US president’s cabinet often seems to be made up of technocrats, but the vice president often has political ambitions of his own.

    And the Secretary of State is usually also someone with huge political ambitions. Let’s just think of Kerry and Clinton, for example. And Romney also explored this office very closely, even under Trump.

    Someone like Buttieg was also currently appointed by Biden.

    I might even prefer technocrats as ministers.

  29. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    4. February 2021 at 08:33

    @Christian List My recollection is that New Zealand uses a smaller proportion for the party/list share, maybe somewhere on the order of 20%. 50% is probably higher than I would favor.

Leave a Reply