Tuesday, May 09, 2006

American Political Parties

Reading Jonathan Gradowski's disagreement with the founder of the Daily Kos I entirely agreed with his sentiment but the main impression his piece left me with was the difficulties for a party out of power that the US system creates with its lack of an opposition hierarchy.

I understand that the weakness of parties was a specific objective of the US founding fathers and it does make sense to limit their power to control political debate. However, when someone wishes to know the opinion of the Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties they can ask them and a failure to answer properly is the only reason to suspect that policy is not properly formed. If you want to know education policy ask the Shadow Education secretary; we have a Leader of the Opposition. Such a thing simply isn't possible for the Democrats. Equally, if someone wishes to change their party's policy they need to win specific debates and either leadership contests or the support of the leadership.

By contrast neither Jon nor Markos Moulitsas have any recourse besides attempting a steady conversion of the rest of their party. Outsiders face as hard a slog in obtaining the audience which gives them the ability to influence party policy as they do in gaining party influence in the UK. I guess this is something of a free market in party control versus the hierarchy approach in the UK. The question therefore is whether the transactions costs are greater in the lack of clear parameters and party line in the US system or in the potential to exclude outsiders in the UK system. So long as the British parties stay open I think the British system is probably the more effective.

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