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Old 03-01-2003, 03:02 PM   #1
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head of state query

Since Interference is an international forum, I thought I'd pose this question. Do you think it's better for the head of state to also be head of the government, as in the U.S, or should the head of state be nonpartisan (like a constitutional monarch) and the head of the government be someone else? Sometimes I wonder what it'd be like to have a nonpartisan head of state.
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Old 03-01-2003, 10:13 PM   #2
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Yeah interesting question. I actually don't know if it makes much difference, since in countries that ARE constitutional monarchies as you describe, the head of state (king, queen, governor general) is so invisible as to be almost nonexistent. Which is to say, the average person probably thinks the prime minister IS the head of state, if they think about it at all. And the prime minister is most definitely partisan. A very public, active and high-profile head of state can be a non-partisan force for good, however. Trouble is the head of state is often a useless cipher.

I do however think that the effective head of government should be tied as closely as possible to the body that elects him or her - ie. should sit in the elected chamber as a member of that chamber. You need as many brakes on executive power as possible. I'm not really a big fan of 'efficiency' when it comes to the important democratic questions. Governments in power tend to launch ambit claims, not good if they come to power with a zealous ideological agenda. You really rely on the machinery of parliament and an upper house to kinda slow down that sort of rubbish. That's off-topic to the main question of course, but well, I don't care.
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Old 03-01-2003, 10:23 PM   #3
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Well, the idea behind constitutional monarchy is that the monarch represents subjects of all political persuasions, classes, religions, etc, etc. At least they are supposed to. I'm really suspicious of too much executive power, too, power is dangerous and (potentially) evil stuff. I guess the question is what's the best way to split it up without screwing up the state apparatus?
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Old 03-01-2003, 10:55 PM   #4
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Yes, well my second paragraph was my response to that question. As to the head of state, that is true in theory. I'd suggest that the real idea behind constitutional monarchy where it survives is that it was the only option for the monarchy's continued existence. It took parliaments in Britain five centuries or more to strip all effective power from the monarch. After that it was either become a symbol or pack your bags.

Of course none of this touches on those countries where the head of state is a non-partisan president, or worse, a partisan president who seems to be a sort of rival power base with a prime minister and government (a la France, and to an extent Russia - I might be wrong).
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Old 03-01-2003, 10:59 PM   #5
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I guess in the end I'm favourably disposed to any system that separates the 'head of state' figure from the day to day exercise of power. I'm more so favourably disposed if the partisan figure who holds actual power (there will be one, trust me) is highly answerable to, and a member of, an elected chamber of some kind.
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Old 03-02-2003, 05:17 PM   #6
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I've always found the consuls, the twin heads of state of the Roman Republic. The problem with that system was that it had too many checks and balances. It was a political system designed to grind all of its members down to an equal level and avoid drastic change. So as change became necessary and was prevented by the checks and balances by the sytem the progressives became radicals and in response the conservatives became reactionaries and it all fell apart. Now Roem was a timocracy (rule by wealth) but it's blended constitution was the model for any number of those which followed. In it Polybius found three types of governement, monarchic, artistocratic and democratic united into one and keeping the others in line. In Britain the king or queeen is the monarch, now with little more than rubber stamp power, the House of Lords again reduced in power and the House of Commons who has defacto power. In the US the Presidne is the monarch for his term, counterballenced by the Senate and Congress. In Canda we have the appointed Governeror General stand in for the monarch with an appoined Senate in place of the House of Lords. The unfortunate thing with our system is that with the great power of the commons once a party gets in with a large majority it can do whatever it wants. Ideally I'd like to see an elected senate similar to the US with the same number of Senators from each province and territory. They'd serve for Ten years with staggered elections so they can deal with large long term issues without fear of being bumped out of office by the fickle public. The House of Commons stays as it is but the electoral districts need to be redrawn and all party members should have fredom of conscience on all wvotes, nne of this voting by party garbage. The governor General should be elected from members of the Senate every five years and be given some limited veto powers as well as some legislative powers. The Prime Minister and Cabinet have far too much power inthe system we have now and there need to be more checks in the system but not too many so as to make change impossible. It's a fine ballance that is impossible to determine.
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Old 03-02-2003, 06:56 PM   #7
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Sounds to me like Australia is the compromise point between the UK, US and Canada:

1. Elected commons (house of representatives)
2. Head of State a governor general being the Queen's representative
3. Elected upper house, the senate (elected so that all the states are more or less equally represented). Provides an important check on the government of the day as it is far from a rubber stamp. The people intuitively know this I'd say, as the government has rarely held the balance of power in the senate as well as the lower house.
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