How American is This Shutdown Fiasco?


Credit: The White House/wikimedia

Despite the fact that European governments have had their own share of fiscal crises recently they rarely shut down. Over at The Week Peter Weber has a good explanation of why this is, and what it is about the U.S. form of government that allows for the current ongoing situation in Washington D.C.:

So why don't other countries have government shutdowns?

There are a few reasons. Parliamentary democracies — like those in Europe and most former British colonies — typically have two chambers, but they don't have separate executive and legislative branches. The prime minister, or head of government, is considered a member of parliament. The party that controls parliament controls the government.

"Conceivably, a parliament could refuse to pass a budget proposed by the prime minister, but such an action would likely trigger a failure of the government and a new election," says BBC News' Zurcher. And even in the rare case where "there is a gap prior to a new government taking office, national services continue to operate."

In non-parliamentary democracies with strong executive branches, like Brazil, the president can simply keep the government running while the legislature gets its act together — sort of like in the U.S., pre-1980. Dictators have it even easier.

Weber continues, pointing out via The Washington Post's Erik Voeten that in many countries if lawmakers cannot agree on a budget it automatically reverts to the one from the year before. 

Of course, with a parliament and a constitutional monarchy one solution to a fiscal stalemate is for the monarch's representative to fire the prime minister, appoint a successor, and dissolve parliament, as was Australia's experience in 1975.