Political System _ Confederations and federations
Saturday, 04 July 2020
(Continued from Yesterday)
The simple forms of oligarchic rule associated with pre-industrial societies are, of course, rapidly disappearing. Industrialization produces new, differentiated elites that replace the small leadership groupings that once controlled social, economic, and political power in the society. The demands of industrialization compel recruitment on the basis of skill, merit, and achievement rather than on the basis of inherited social position and wealth. New forms of oligarchic rule have also made their appearance in many advanced industrial societies. Although governing elites in these societies are no longer recruited from a single class, they are often not subjected to effective restraints on the exercise of their power. Indeed, in some circumstances, the new elites may use their power to convert themselves into a governing class whose interests are protected by every agency of the state.
Oligarchic tendencies of a lesser degree have been detected in all the great bureaucratic structures of advanced political systems. The growing complexity of modern society and its government thrusts ever greater power into the hands of administrators and committees of experts. Even in constitutional regimes, no fully satisfactory answer has been found to the question of how these bureaucratic decision makers can be held accountable and their powers effectively restrained without, at the same time, jeopardizing the efficiency and rationality of the policy-making process.

Constitutional government
Constitutional government is defined by the existence of a constitution _which may be a legal instrument or merely a set of fixed norms or principles generally accepted as the fundamental law of the polity_that effectively controls the exercise of political power. The essence of constitutionalism is the control of power by its distribution among several state organs or offices in such a way that they are each subjected to reciprocal controls and forced to cooperate in formulating the will of the state. Although constitutional government in this sense flourished in England and in some other historical systems for a considerable period, it is only recently that it has been associated with forms of mass participation in politics. In England, for example, constitutional government was not harnessed to political democracy until after the Reform Act of 1832 and subsequent 19th-century extensions of the suffrage. In the contemporary world, however, constitutional governments are also generally democracies, and in most cases they are referred to as constitutional democracies or constitutional-democratic systems.
The contemporary political systems that combine constitutionalism and democracy share a common basis in the primacy they accord to the will of the majority of the people as expressed in free elections. In all such systems, political parties are key institutions, for they are the agencies by which majority opinion in a modern mass electorate is mobilized and expressed. Indeed, the history of the political party in its modern form is coincidental with the development of contemporary constitutional-democratic systems. In each case, the transition from the older forms of constitutionalism to modern constitutional democracy was accompanied by the institutionalization of parties and the development of techniques of party competition.

The essential functions of political parties in a constitutional democracy are the integration of a multitude of interests, beliefs, and values into one or more programs or proposals for change and the nomination of party members for elective office in the government. In both functions, the party serves as a link between the rulers and the ruled: in the first case by allowing the electorate to register an opinion on policy and in the second by giving the people a chance to choose their rulers. Of course, the centralized, autocratically directed, and ideologically orthodox one-party systems of totalitarian regimes perform neither of these functions.
The two major types of constitutional democracy in the modern world are exemplified by the United States and Great Britain. The United States is the leading example of the presidential system of constitutional democracy; Britain, although its system is sometimes referred to as a cabinet system in recognition of the role of the cabinet in the government, is the classic example of the parliamentary system. The U.S. presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers and distinguishes sharply between the personnel of the legislature and the executive; the British parliamentary system provides for the integration or fusion of legislature and executive. In the U.S. system the separation of legislature and executive is reinforced by their separate election and by the doctrine of checks and balances that provides constitutional support for routine disagreements between the branches; in the British system the integration of legislature and executive is reinforced by the necessity for their constant agreement, or for a condition of “confidence” between the two, if the normal processes of government are to continue. In the U.S. system reciprocal controls are provided by such devices as the presidential veto of legislation (which may be overridden by a two-thirds majority in Congress), the Senate’s role in ratifying treaties and confirming executive nominations, congressional appropriation of funds and the exclusive ability to declare war, and judicial review of legislation; in the British system the major control device is the vote of “no confidence” or the rejection of legislation that is considered vital.
A third type of constitutional democracy is the hybrid presidential-parliamentary system, exemplified by the government of France. In such systems there is both a directly elected president with substantial executive powers and a presidentially appointed prime minister, who must retain majority support in the legislature.

If the president’s party or coalition also controls a legislative majority, the prime minister is generally a secondary figure, responsible for the day-to-day running of the government. However, the office of prime minister becomes more important when one party or coalition controls the presidency and a rival party or coalition retains majority support in the legislature. During such periods the president generally appoints the leader of the legislative majority as prime minister.

Contemporary levels of government
Most national societies have passed through a stage in their social and political development, usually referred to as feudalism, in which a weak and ineffectively organized national government competes for territorial jurisdiction with local power holders. In medieval England and France, for example, the crown was perennially threatened by the power of the feudal nobles, and a protracted struggle was necessary before the national domain was subjected to full royal control. Elsewhere, innumerable societies continued to experience this kind of feudal conflict between local magnates and the central government well into the modern era. The warlords of 19th- and 20th-century China, for example, were just as much the products of feudal society as the warring barons of 13th-century England and presented the same kind of challenge to the central government’s claim to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over the national territory. By the 1970s, feudalism was almost extinct. The social patterns that had formerly supported the power of local landowners were rapidly disappearing, and central governments had generally acquired a near monopoly of communications and military technology, enabling them to project their power into areas once controlled by local rulers.
In nearly all national political systems, central governments are better equipped than ever before to exercise effective jurisdiction over their territories. In much of the developing world, nationalist political movements and a variety of modern economic forces have swept away the traditional structures of local government, and the quasi-autonomous governments of village and tribe and province have been replaced by centrally directed systems of subnational administration. Even in the heavily industrialized states of the modern world, there has been an accelerating tendency toward greater centralization of power at the national level. In the United States, for example, the structure of relationships among the governments at the national, state, and local levels has changed in a number of ways to add to the power of the federal government in Washington. Even though the system of national grants-in-aid appears to have been designed as a means of decentralizing administration, the effect has been decidedly centralist, for the conditional character of the grants has allowed the federal government to exercise influence on state policies in fields that were once invulnerable to national intervention.