The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America
(Encounter Books, 2014)
Public opinion polls show that, by overwhelming margins, Americans believe that the United States “has a unique character because of its history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world.” However dissatisfied they are with the characters who run it, Americans take great pride in our system of government, with its separation of powers and independently elected president.
Should they? That’s the question F. H. Buckley asks in his powerfully argued new book, The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America. Buckley points out that “parliamentary governments, which lack a separation of powers, rank significantly higher on measures of political freedom” than presidential systems. There are good reasons for that, he argues, among them: parliamentary systems make executives more accountable to the legislature; they discourage political cults of personality by separating the roles of “head of state” and “head of government”; and they make it easier to “throw the bum out” if all else fails.
Should we celebrate our presidential system, or, as Buckley suggests, count ourselves lucky that, for more than 200 years, we’ve “remained free while yet presidential”? Please join us on May 29th for a lively discussion of these foundational issues.