Is Fareed Zakaria onto something?

Fareed Zakaria, during his “my take” section this morning, made the case that there is something fundamentally inadequate about our Presidential system (particulary when burdened by the supermajority requirement and rampant filibustering) when it comes to getting reforms enacted. He starts from the observation that of the 17 countries who have AAA credit ratings — none are Presidential system, all except one are Parliamentary systems where the executive and legislature are in synch and the party in power can actually get stuff done. By contrast, in America, we have partisan gridlock of historic proportions, and it’s being exacerbated by things like the supermajority requirement to get anything done in the Senate (a Senate rule that is not part of the constitution) and the readiness to use filibuster indiscriminately.

He also makes the point that historically we are at a point where there is a unique and fundamental need to be able to enact reforms. An aging population; globalization; transformation of the economy from manufacturing to knowledge/service — all of these things cry out for assertive reform, yet the system resists this in a way that is not the case in Parliamentary systems.

I think there is something to the argument. It seems to me that the fabric that makes the Presidential system work is an unwritten commitment on the part of all parties to seek compromise as a fundamental tenet in the approach — and when you see that fundamental tenet get thrown out the window, then you get not just the usual level of partisan gridlock — you get what we’ve been witnessing.

America has traditionally shown a remarkable ability to right itself. I’m wondering whether popular reaction to what we’ve just witnessed will be enough to right the ship in this situation. Not feeling too hopeful.

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