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Case Study: Legislative Acts

Case Study: Legislative Acts

Case Study: Legislative Acts


In contrast, British judges play only a limited role in governing. Whereas the question of constitutionality hovers over every legislative and executive act in the United States, in Great Britain the judiciary does not possess the power to overturn an act of Parliament. Nor do British judges act as constitutional guardians of civil liberties, as U.S. judges do whenever they assert the primacy of individual rights over legislative acts. Only rarely do British judges rule that the executive branch has overstepped its legal bounds.

In the view of one scholar, “The parliamentary system is a Cadillac among governments” and the presidential system is a “Model T.”*Parliamentary systems are often highly sensitive to public opinion. Political parties campaign on distinct, well-defined platforms. If the election outcome results in a strong mandate for one party, the resulting government is likely to succeed in pushing its program through the parliament. If government policies prove unpopular or impracticable or if the government falls into disrepute for any reason whatsoever, the prime minister or the ruling party can be replaced with no major shock to the political system as a whole. Party discipline in the British parliamentary system makes it more efficient than the often deadlocked U.S. Congress.*

The U.S. presidential system, critics have asserted, is too often marked by deadlocks stemming from the checks and balances built into its tripartite structure. Too often, one party controls the presidency and another controls the Congress. Moreover, it is very difficult to remove an incompetent or unpopular president from office. In addition, an ossified two-party system leaves many groups and interests underrepresented in the Congress.

Finally, many critics contend that the Electoral College is a dinosaur that makes the popular election of the president a farce. In this view, the practice of choosing electors on a winner-takes-all basis puts the will of the people in jeopardy—witness the 2000 election in which Al Gore won the popular vote but George W. Bush won the White House.