The recent government shutdown has sparked debate over what can be done to make the legislative branch more effective in achieving its goals. It has a plethora of shortcomings, and the arguments around how to fix its inefficiencies have ranged from diminishing political polarization to completely restructuring the Senate.
Many want to model the legislative process after procedures that other countries have had success in implementing. Since the adoption of the Constitution, the United States has always compared itself to the United Kingdom. While U.S. citizens want an effective government that’s capable of responding to issues quickly, adopting U.K. principals would be flawed in a number of ways.
Both the modern U.K. and U.S. have fully-formed systems of government that are unlikely to change dramatically. Additionally, both hold stable positions in the international community, which is also unlikely to change.
Parliament—specifically the House of Commons—functions with considerably larger coalitions that have had a high degree of success when it comes to passing legislation. This makes large coalitions seem like an alluring solution to government inefficiency in the U.S.
Most people build the argument for massive coalitions around the post-WWII era, when the Conservative Party passed a significant amount of influential legislation. The coalition between two massive British parties—Labour and Conservative—was responsible for “a National Health Service, Nationalization of Industry and Public Utilities, National Insurance reform [of] 1946, Social Security,” according to britpolitics.co.uk. Passing this much legislation is a captivating idea in this era of gridlocked U.S. politics, however, it would be ineffective.
Rapid legislation like in post-WWII England was not the original goal of the Constitution. As much as possible, the framers instituted checks and balances to secure the government from tyranny created by the majority. This can be seen in the basic structure of the Senate, which wields the most power to pass legislation.
Additionally, the filibuster—one of these inefficiencies—has been dragged through the mud in the past few years, yet it is a valuable tactic in granting power to the minority party.
While temporarily halting the legislative process, the filibuster acts as a catalyst for compromise as it forces the majority to mediate with the minority in order to proceed. If the U.S were to build massive coalitions, as seen in Britain, they would silence the voice of the minority. These coalitions are more effective in the U.K. as there are more than two parties in Parliament.
When President Donald Trump was first sworn into office, a general fear came over those on the left side of the political spectrum. The fear that Republicans—who now held the Executive Office and majorities in the House and Senate—would pass sweeping legislation that would fundamentally alter the landscape of American politics.
The inadequacy in the legislative system has halted most efforts to change even laws that most Republicans agree with, like the Affordable Care Act. While funding has been cut and the individual mandate that all Americans must have health insurance has died, Republicans have been incapable of passing a complete repeal. Those on the left have the inefficiencies in the legislative process to thank for the preservation of this legislation.
Without a thoughtful system of legislating, bills may pass unchallenged without compromise to make them more representative of what Americans on both sides of the aisle want. In conclusion: sometimes inefficiency is a blessing in disguise.