Alex Massie

Frustrating Change & Ignoring Public Opinion: That’s A Bad Thing?

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Matt Yglesias laments that American political institutions aren't more like, well, ours:

The American legislative system, however, is not a good venue in which to attempt to rip off a band-aid. Nobody wants to propose such a thing, provoke an outcry, and then have it not happen. And the odds of getting 60 votes in the Senate for anything more controversial than a vote in favor of mom and apple pie are pretty thin. Consequently, bad policy can just sit there on the books with everyone afraid to peek their head over the ramparts lest it get shot off.

The American system is designed to disable change and, sometimes, frustrate the popular will; the British system enables change and, often, ignores the popular will. There's something to be said for both of them, but each comes with considerable drawbacks.

Still, American progressives frustrated by the difficulty of passing sweeping legislation in DC might consider returning to the Republic's federalist roots. A state-by-state approach is not as sexy as a landmark bill passed amidst much fanfare in Washington, but it might result in better, simpler bills less prone to hostile takeover or the laws of unintended consequences. If the system in Washington is broken beyond repair, then look elsewhere and, in the end, reduce the role and importance of Washington. That might leave everyone better off and, you never know, happier too...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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