7 the confederacy of dunces the legislative function n.
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7 The Confederacy of Dunces: The Legislative Function. Democratic Legislatures. While lawmaking is the most fundamental role legislative institutions play, they perform all of the following roles Lawmaking, Representing, Checking, Legitimating, and Educating These will be examined in turn.

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7 The Confederacy of Dunces: The Legislative Function

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democratic legislatures
Democratic Legislatures
  • While lawmaking is the most fundamental role legislative institutions play, they perform all of the following roles
  • Lawmaking, Representing, Checking, Legitimating, and Educating
  • These will be examined in turn
  • This is the most basic function of democratic legislatures
  • Bills are introduced by legislators but may come from constituents, interest groups, the executive, etc.
  • Most of the work of crafting legislation (research, hearings, debate, amending) occurs in committees
legislative representation
Legislative Representation
  • Another fundamental job of legislators is to represent their constituents
  • A bicameral (two house) legislature is useful if there is a need to represent different segments of society
  • Such as geography (the U.S. Senate) or Class (the British House of Lords)
  • The redundancy of two houses provides an additional check but also slows things down
types of representatives
Types of Representatives
  • A delegate is a representative who attempts to do exactly what her constituents want
  • A trustee believes that voters trust them to make the right decision
  • In reality, most act as a politico: acting as a delegate when an issue is important to the constituency and there is strong consensus and acting as a trustee the rest of the time
  • It is the responsibility of government institutions to watch over other government institutions (oversight)
  • For instance, investigative hearings
  • Parliaments have shadow governments made up of members of the minority party
  • Establishing the law as something that should be accepted
  • How is this done?
  • This can simply be because an issue was decided in the legislature
the educating function
The Educating Function
  • Democratic legislatures must educate the citizenry
  • This is facilitated by the media
  • Members with geographic constituencies may also try other means of communication and education in the district
hello mr smith
Hello, Mr. Smith
  • Ideal institutions must be adapted to the reality of the challenges that people face.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington portrays an idealistic, but naïve, senator who gets caught up in real-world politics.
  • What does he do to kill a graft-laden public-works piece of legislation?
  • He uses a filibuster; what’s that?
  • It’s the tactic of indefinitely talking about a bill, in order to frustrate the majority who favor the bill.
  • Does this sound very democratic?
  • Even idealists must sometimes use political methods to achieve their goals (boycotts, civil disobedience, interest group pressure, etc.)
parliamentary instability
Parliamentary Instability
  • Because it is difficult to enact big changes in a presidential system, social and economic policy remains fairly consistent
  • In a parliamentary system, sweeping change is easier and too much change can be a problem
  • Especially true for business or economic planning or any policy that looks to the future (education, law enforcement, etc.)
parliamentary instability1
Parliamentary Instability
  • A second source of instability in parliamentary systems is the tenure of the government itself
  • A simply majority vote of no confidence will lead to the formation of a new government and often new elections
  • The instability problem of parliaments is the opposite and equal to the gridlock problem with presidential systems
district v proportional systems
District v. Proportional Systems
  • A district system elects an individual who is clearly responsible for representing the interest of the district
  • A proportional system increases the number of parties and the variety of political perspectives represented
  • And it ensures almost every vote is reflected in the final representation
coalition governments
Coalition Governments
  • With more parties, it is often necessary to form coalitions to maintain a majority
  • These are often ad hoc and uneasy alliances
  • Especially when a minor party is in a key position to form a coalition one way or another
  • These relevant parties gain influence that far outweighs their electoral support
coalition governments1
Coalition Governments
  • While parliamentary governments do not suffer from gridlock, they may suffer from immobilism
  • The more complex and fragile the ruling coalition, the more difficult it is to enact coherent legislation
  • Occasionally a minority government will rule with an agreement that another party will abstain from a no-confidence vote
representation flaws in district elections
Representation Flaws in District Elections

- Gerrymandering: intentionally drawing districts to gain partisan advantag

- Splitting the loyalty of the representative between the nation’s and the district’s best interest

- District loyalty discourages party loyalty and encourages pork-barrel politics

- Much of the legislator’s job is comprise of constituent service

authoritarian legislative institutions
Authoritarian Legislative Institutions
  • Do they have legislative institutions in non-democratic countries?
  • Yes, but they do not represent the public’s interests the same way as they do in democracies. So why have them?
  • They still serve valuable political functions.
  • For example, debates in the Chinese parliament, even if scripted, offer explanations to the public for why laws are being enacted.
authoritarian legislative institutions1
Authoritarian Legislative Institutions
  • Can provide important representation and advisory functions
    • Especially in oligarchies
  • Can also legitimate laws and decisions
    • More so if the people believe the parliaments are truly representative