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Thursday, October 3, 2013

History Lessons

For John, BLUFNot everyone who cites history knows that history.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On October 2, Dylan Matthews published a piece in The Washington Post titled "The Shutdown is the Constitution’s Fault.".  I have been meaning to read it, but as my absence on Wednesday shows, I have been busy.  One of my sons, on furlough from Uncle Sam, even offered to draft up a couple of posts for me.

At any rate, when retired CRS Analyst Robert Goldich takes you to the history woodshed, you know you need to brush up a little.  Bob does just that on the blog War on the Rocks, with "Get Your History Right on America's Political System".  Incidentally, I think our system is working just as it was designed.

He argues that shutdown is indicative of a degree of political polarization that could lead to the rise of authoritarian government in the United States, and that a central reason for this is the separation-of-powers system of government we have, rather than a parliamentary system.   In a parliamentary system, there is a unity of executive and legislative branches and often only one legislative body rather than two, or only one truly decisive one.   There are a host of theoretical arguments in favor of both systems.   The problem with Matthews is that the historical examples he cites in support of his contention are nothing less than preposterous.
After looking at some historical errors, Mr Goldich ends:
If Matthews wants to be an Aristotle and write about the vices and virtues of different systems of government, fine.   But if he’s going to cite historical examples in support of a thesis, he should know his history better, and have a better understanding of the forces which affect a country’s political development.
Regards  —  Cliff

  Robert L. Goldich retired from a 33-year career in the Congressional Research Service in 2005.  He was the senior CRS military manpower analyst when he left.  Bob is currently writing a book on conscription in history, from the first human civilizations to the present.

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