*The Once and Future King*
The author is my colleague F.H. Buckley and the subtitle is The Rise of Crown Government in America. I am very enthusiastic about this book, which is a comparative study of American and Canadian systems of government with respect to the abilities to produce varying degrees of tyranny, in the former case mostly through the executive branch. Buckley is himself from Canada and overall favors that system of government. Here are two excerpts:
That was why McGee and the other Fathers thought Canada the freest country in the world. When they looked south, they saw a country with more of Constant’s liberty of the ancients, but with less (so it seemed to them) of the liberty of the moderns. Moreoever, of the former, the right of self-government had been corrupted by political machines and trivialized by elections for dogcatchers. The high ideals of the American Founders had been forgotten, and McGee thought that their republican virtue, in the era of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, was now little more than American braggadocio.
Presidential regimes are more likely than parliamentary ones to turn into dictatorships, and to rank lower on measures of public corruption. Thus far we have examined two explanations for this: The president is the head of state and symbol of the nation; and he is relatively immunized from accountability to the legislature. We now turn to a third possible explanation: The separation of powers creates inefficiencies in government that invite the president to step in and correct, and in so doing, to augment his powers and independence from congressional oversight.
I would argue that, for better or worse, a big part of the differences is driven, not only by constitutions but also by the much more active foreign policy of the United States. I wonder what a true parliamentary discussion of nuclear weapons use would look like.