Strange new support for a parliamentary system

I’ve always favored a parliamentary system, partly because I’d like a form government where there is a party I could vote for—something like the Free Democrats of Germany (at least as they were in the 20th century).

Conservative commenters insist that this is a terrible idea, and that the head of our government should be picked by the Electoral College because . . . well, because that’s what it says in the Constitution.

Now, however, conservatives are coming around to my view, which is that a nation’s leader should be picked by its legislators:

Fox News anchor Bret Baier pressed Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) late Monday to explicitly say whether he believes President Trump will remain in the White House despite his defeat in the November election.

“I want to pin you down on what you’re trying to do,” Baier told Hawley during the Republican’s appearance on the network. “Are you trying to say as of Jan. 20 Trump will be president?”

Hawley responded: “That depends on what happens on Wednesday, that’s why we have the debate.”

“No it doesn’t,” Baier interjected. “The states, by the Constitution, say they certify the election, they did certify it. By the Constitution, Congress does not have the right to overturn the certification, at least as most experts read it.”

Good for Josh Hawley!! It’s about time an American politician stood up for the political model used in most of the civilized world.

My only tiny quibble with Hawley is that I’d prefer that the regime change occur before the votes are cast.



13 Responses to “Strange new support for a parliamentary system”

  1. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    5. January 2021 at 13:39

    Why would you vote for the Free Democrats but not the Libertarians?

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2021 at 15:22

    I did vote Libertarian.

    I should have specified that I’d like to have a party to vote for that would be represented in Congress.

    A serious party, not a fringe group. Under PR, the Libertarians would get larger and more sensible. Sort of like how the European “Greens” became more moderate as they rose to power.

  3. Gravatar of David Pinto David Pinto
    5. January 2021 at 16:33

    It is my understanding that the founders thought there would be a set of regional candidates for president, and that few would ever get enough electoral votes to be elected outright. In other words, the founders thought that the House of Representatives would usually have the final say on who would be president.

    Founders got that wrong.

  4. Gravatar of Justin Justin
    5. January 2021 at 16:40

    I’ve agreed with this approach as well, or something like it.

    The House of Representatives should be based on votes for a party with parties providing lists of representatives who would take office. If the Libertarians take 3.69% of the vote, they receive 16 of the 435 seats. No vote would be a waste and you wouldn’t have the issue of voting for a compromised individual because you hate the policy of the other guy (parties can opt to maintain awful people on the lists, or just have them removed). Many people know what politics they like, but many have no clue about individual politicians. All regular laws are passed in the House alone with a simple 50% of the vote, but there will be no ability to override a Presidential veto, as authority will stop with him. Pork should be less of a problem as people no longer represent particular districts but rather the whole country.

    For fun, I’d also let people pick between voting ‘for’ a party while voting for the House, adding 1 vote to the party’s column, or ‘against’ a party, subtracting one vote from the party’s column. I bet it would increase turnout.

    The Senate should be merged with the executive branch. Senators go back to being selected by State governments, but rather than term limits they simply serve at the pleasure of the State government. State governments can change their senators for any time for any reason. The Senate in turn selects the President from among their own number, who represents the executive authority of the Senate. The President stays in office until he dies or there is 51 votes for another person, and a vote can be held at any time. Presidents will be safe unless they alarm the Senate, alarm State governments, or cause voters to change governments at the State level. The Senate will continue to confirm cabinet appointees, treaties, etc. It will also provide oversight of departments by being able to pass administrative law, but it will not be able to pass regular laws involving spending, taxes, etc. With administrative law there will be no overriding of a veto, but a President also knows that if they have 51+ votes on an important issue, the Senate can simply replace him with another person.

    To insulate the Supreme Court from politics further, the President continues to nominate Supreme Court justices, but the justices are confirmed by majority vote of the sitting justices, unless there is some catastrophe in which none are left at which point it would revert to the Senate to confirm.

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    5. January 2021 at 16:53

    I prefer a free-market system in which I can sell my vote to highest bidder.

  6. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    5. January 2021 at 17:42


    Parliamentary system means the Executive is elected by the Legislature. Presidential means the executive is separate from the legislature.

    This idea has nothing to do with a proportional system of electing the legislature (or for Germany a mixed member proportional system). The UK has a Parliament and you don’t vote for the party there.

    This idea has nothing to do with the electoral college. Many Presidential systems do not use it, though countries with popularly elected Presidents tend to not do all that well compared to Parliamentary systems.

  7. Gravatar of Jerry Brown Jerry Brown
    5. January 2021 at 19:45

    “Tiny quibble”?

  8. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    5. January 2021 at 22:50

    John, Germany is an interesting example. They went from directly electing the president in the Weimar Republic to the legislative picking a president without any real powers. (Their legislative also picks the chancellor who is now the real person in charge.)

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. January 2021 at 09:25

    David, Good point.

    John, Tell me something I don’t know.

  10. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    6. January 2021 at 11:50

    True parliamentary systems with proportional representation (PR) are highly unstable witness how many elections have been conducted in Israel over the past five years. France abandoned their PR system in 1958 and the Italians were always having troubles forming a stable government. The UK elects by district and it’s not uncommon for a party to have a huge margin in Parliament despite not winning a large percent of the vote.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. January 2021 at 13:41

    Alan, Many northern European countries do fine with the system. There is an argument for only allowing parties with at least 5% of the vote, as in Germany.

  12. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    7. January 2021 at 07:02

    The problem with the post is that you mix things up and things don’t follow in a sensible way.

    You say, I want a Parliamentary system because you want to vote for a party. However, voting for a party is not what makes a Parliamentary system Parliamentary (UK is Parliamentary and don’t vote for party). You could have a constitutional amendment that makes election to the House and Senate based on a party/proportional vote. You’d vote for a party in that case, but we would still be in a Presidential system.

    You should have instead said, I want a Parliamentary system because it is better that the Head of Government is directly accountable to the Legislature. That is a consistent argument. I’m not sure I agree with it, but it at least makes sense.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. January 2021 at 10:30

    John, I meant I want a party I can support, and that will win seats. America lacks such a party, as it has only two parties that win seats, neither of which believe in freedom.

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