David P. Baron, “Comparative dynamics of parliamentary government”, APSR 92 (1998), pp. 593-609

Main Argument:

This article presents a dynamic theory of parliamentary government with an emphasis on government formation, legislation, and termination under alternative institutional confidence relationships. It focuses on distributive politics, that is, government spending or income redistribution. With a majority confidence procedure, governments are stable, and if parties are politically patient, voting cohesion within the government is high. A censure motion initiated by the opposition can result in voluntary dissolution of government, and the approach of required elections increases the likelihood of dissolution. If the events represent fluctuations in aggregate income, government dissolution occurs in good times for the government leader and bad times for the other parties.


Method: The dynamics are investigated in an infinitely repeated game of distributive politics (formal game theory). In each period, an event in the form of a shock to income or government resources occurs, and the government responds with a legislative proposal that is subject to a confidence or censure procedure and may lead to government continuation, reorganization, or dissolution.



== Notes ==



Three basic approaches to the study of the duration and termination of parliamentary governments:
–           One is based on attributes of the country and its political system, including voter preferences and societal cleavages, party polarization and fragmentation, and electoral and parliamentary institutions (Dodd 1976; Taylor and Herman 1971; Warwick 1979, 1992)
–           A second approach focuses on critical events, such as economic and political crises, that can lead to government termination, and it often involves estimation of a hazard rate (Browne, Frendreis, and Gleiber 1984, 1986; Merlo 1997).
–           The third approach focuses on the strategies governments and their opposition adopt in response to events that affect preferences and opportunities. These strategies determine whether, for example, a government reorganizes or terminates, and hence they identify which events are critical (see Strom (1990) and Grofman and Van Roozendaal (1994); Lupia and Strom (1995)

The model presented here includes the principal features of these three approaches: attributes of the institutional system in a country, exogenous events that represent changing circumstances and shape parliamentary and electoral opportunities, and the strategies of the government and the opposition as structured by institutions and preferences

The focus is on the conjunction of legislative activity and parliamentary procedures for terminating a government, and the principal institutional features considered are confidence and censure procedures



–           Stability originates in the parliamentary institution
–           The installation of a government through majority support in the parliament is accompanied by a substantial degree of agenda control, and this control allows the government to serve the constituents of coalition members

–           Challenges to this agenda control through censure motions by the opposition can result in instability and government dissolution

Government dissolution results under two types of conditions:
–           First, challenges by the opposition in the form of a censure or no-confidence motion can force the government to terminate in anticipation of a defeat on the motion
–           Second, termination can also result from fluctuations in aggregate income
–           Instability is derived from nearing an election period or a time when the future in uncertain
–       Government termination or the calling of an early election can result from fluctuations in aggregate economic activity