Tonight I introduce a new feature: A recurring seminar on various topics. The concept is deliberately academic. I (and others assuming y’all embrace the concept) will be conducting a conversation on various topics: politics, policy, economics.
For this first effort, I will outline a discussion and invite you to comment. We will have the thread up for a day or two, then take it down. I would ask you to do some research in preperation for next week’s continuation of the topic. Please try to find trenchant and persuasive material and bring us a link. Also write a synopsis of the mateiral that you are bringing us. Hopefully we can work for several weeks and find quite a bit of material to share.
And perhaps we can synthesize some new thoughts on the topic. Do please try to be careful to follow standard academic rules: avoid plagiarism or anything smelling of it, and give us citations. I’m pretty jazzed on this, I hope you will join me in this exercise.
A recent comment on a thread got me thinking again about a subject that is often in the back of my mind.
Someone wrote that America needs a third party, which could lead one into an interesting Political Science conversation.
Obviously, for a democracy to be a democracy, there must be more than one party. The question then arises: how many would be ideal? I would not hold up America’s two party system as a desirable model. Now, I have often twitted people who threaten to bolt off to the Greens for being irrational and silly. My beef with the American Green party is that it wastes money running a candidate for president. I know, I know, it draws attention. Not much, it doesn’t. My argument is that if the Greens got six congresspeople elected, they would become a real power. Imagine how Pelosi would be wooing them just now. Look at how gingerly the Senate Dems must treat that cold fish Leiberman!
So I think we could agree that two is too few. How many is too many? That would depend in part on your expectations of govt. If you were a Rethug, you want govt to accomplish nothing at all. You seriously want govt to shrivel up and die.
Most other democracies are parliamentary in nature. Which means that the executive power resides with whichever party in the legislature has the majority. Some states have a somewhat mixed structure, featuring both a president and a prime minister. France, Russia and Israel are important examples.
The question that we are attempting to answer is: What number of parties leads to the most progressive and effective society?
In America we have been fixed on a two party system for nearly two centuries. Arguably that is not ideal.
Britain has two and a half parties: Labor, Tory and Liberal Democrat, the LD being really only half a party, as it has never lead a coalition (to my knowledge. Part of this exercise is to fill in our collective knowledge.)
Other nations have settled on three parties, in general.
Others have multiple parties. In some systems it is necessary to achieve X percentage of the vote to win a seat in parliament, which is designed to limit the number of parties represented in govt. I believe Britain and Germany could be counted in this group.
Italy, famously, had a new governing coalition every year for the first 45 years after WWII. A driver of that is the fact that there is (or was) almost no minimum needed to gain a seat in parliment.
Israel is a dramatic example. The Knesset has 120 seats, and any party that earns at least 120th of the vote has a shot at a seat. Often as not, the Knesset has ten parties seated. Many analysis of the deadlock in the MiddleEast has referenced the out-sized influence of minuscule parties in Israeli politics.
That is the first installment. An overview of subject and a few examples to discuss. Let’s chat about this for two days then go find more material to share in a week. I’ll repost this introduction and your comments, with a bit of a refresh, then we can continue our chat.