Stephan Haggard and Matthew McCubbins, (eds.) Presidents, Parliaments and Policy (2001).

Key point: formal political institutions affect economic policy-making and – less directly – policy results. The greater the number of effective veto actors within a polity, the more difficult it is to change policy; such polities are indecisive about policy change, but they are also resolute once the policy course has been established. Furthermore, the more veto players there are, the greater the demands within the system for particularistic benefits as the price for not exercising veto power. Hence, systems with multiple veto actors should display higher levels of pork barrel spending than those with fewer veto actors. While this likely sounds familiar, the innovative element to the argument comes with the characterization of veto actors.

 

Method: in addition to the two theoretical chapters, there are case studies of transitional democracies that are presidential systems (with the exception of the Czech Republic).

 

Critique: the distribution of power in different societies also affects policymaking – institutions do not function in a vacuum. Furthermore, different ideas about the economic policies that are most effective, differences in economic objectives, and the preferences of top-level policymakers (the president, his/her ministers, and the heads of the Central Bank and a few other powerful economic policymaking agencies) also have a significant impact on the diversity of policies pursued.

 

 

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Notes:

 

*the editors distinguish between the separation of power (constitutionally mandated veto points) and the separation of purpose (the extent to which those armed with veto power differ with respect to their policy preferences.

**the extent to which policy outcomes are affected by veto points will be a function of both.

***for example, under conditions of divided government, there is a separation of power (between the president and Congress) and a separation of purpose in that parties with different policy preferences control each branch.

****under these conditions, both branches have incentives to employ veto power to prevent unfavourable policy change.

****conversely, under unified government, both branches have the power but not the incentive to exercise veto power.

*there are two key democratic trade-offs: first, between the capacity of state leaders to undertake sweeping policy change (decisiveness) and policy stability (resoluteness); and second, between public- and private-regardedness of policy.

**how democracies tackle both trade-offs depends on the incentives created by political institutions.

**other things being equal, one would expect greater policy stability and less capacity to undertake policy change when there are many veto players and when actors have a greater separation of purpose.

**the separation of purpose, in turn, depends on incentives to cultivate a personal vote, the electoral rules that affect the number of parties, and party factionalization.