A Case for Moderated Parliamentarism: Balancing Accountability and Effectiveness

Moderated parliamentarism entails a strong bicameral legislature in which the two chambers are symmetric (i.e. they have equal legislative powers) and incongruent (i.e. they are likely to have different partisan compositions). The centrist 'confidence and opposition' chamber is elected on a moderated majoritarian electoral system (such as approval vote or ranked-choice/preferential vote); the diversified 'checking and appointing' chamber is constituted on a proportional representation model (with a reasonably high threshold requirement). The traditional debates between presidentialism and parliamentarism, and between majoritarian and proportional electoral systems have endured for as long as they have because each system has something attractive. Moderated parliamentarism combines the most attractive elements of each to optimize competing values.

“Populism” Is Not Helpful

Populism has taken the academic world by storm. Leaders are routinely called populist; populism is called one of the biggest problems of our time. In this paper, I argue that the idea of populism is not helpful in diagnosing what is going wrong with constitutional democracy around the world for three reasons: 1) “populism” covers such a huge range of ideological commitments that it is not a coherent concept unless artificially stipulated; 2) voters who vote for “populist” leaders cannot be presupposed to intend everything that that leader then does — so “populist” leaders often do not have “populist” followers; 3) “populism” draws both popular and academic attention away from construction deconstruction (the elimination of checks on executive power and the hollowing out of rights), and so generates treatment of symptoms rather diagnoses of the underlying disease. I conclude that “populism” is not helpful.

The End of Institutions

Many of us have focused on democratic erosion and institutional corrosion. We don’t understand yet the sources of institutional resiliency in the face of populism. While we know that non-democratically legitimated institutions—like bureaucracies, courts and militaries—are the key to avoiding “near misses” we don’t know how such institutions survive in the face of populist takeover. This is a study of the conditions of institutional resilience.