The Perils of Presidentialism, in Action
October 2, 2013 10:48 AM Subscribe
Political theorist Juan Linz died
Tuesday at the age of 86. His work focused on comparative government, including studies on totalitarian and authoritarian regimes
. Linz was also a prominent critic of the presidential system of government used in the United States and in much of Latin America. In his essay, "The Perils of Presidentialism"
(later expanded into book form as The Failure of Presidential Democracy
), Linz argued that presidential systems are inherently unstable, as they invariably lead to standoffs between the president and the legislature, each with competing claims to legitimacy. Thus, as in many Latin American countries, presidential systems frequently collapse, and often are replaced with dictatorships. The one exception to that pattern has been the United States--at least until recently
. In an interview
in January of this year, Linz argued that the US was succumbing to the same dysfunction as other presidential regimes. In Slate
, Matthew Yglesias commemorates Linz by warning that the American system of government may be doomed to an endless cycle of crisis and constitutional disintegration
, as evidenced by the government shutdown. Dylan Matthews concurs
, arguing that the shutdown is "James Madison's fault."
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