Since the government shutdown, I have made multiple claims about the United States government and its tendency towards overwhelming ineptitude. In one of those claims, I made reference to the European Union’s ability to get things done, even though they have to do it in the face of unanimous consent. To pass a bill in the United States, you only need to garner the support of a simple majority to pass most bills. On rare occasion you might need to garner 2/3 and even more rarely 3/5. The European Union holds 28 member states, and if even one does not agree with a bill being debated, it isn’t passed. And yet, they are much more efficient than the United States.
This is an incredibly unique time in European history. The continent has never seen a period of peace like it has today. Upon thinking through history, it is clear that there hasn’t been a time of peace like today since even before the time of the Greeks. And yet, despite the history of conflict and disagreement, they can come together with different ideas and agendas, and still get things done in a timely manner. How is this possible?
The European Union is set up very differently than the United States. The United States values its “separation of powers.” These are the divisions between executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The European Union is almost the exact opposite. They bring all of the powers into one body, called parliament. In parliament, laws are created, enforced, and deemed “constitutional.” It is the inclusion of powers. This allows more unilateral, and more decisive actions by the governing body, as opposed to the United Sates governing body who seemingly can’t agree between any governing entity.
To be fair, however, the American system was designed to be inefficient. After the United States declared its independence from England, it feared government with such power, decisiveness, and effectiveness. They designed a system that, at least they thought, would give its people the advantage over their government. This is shown time and time again throughout the constitution. Despite its inherent flaws in governing, it worked. It was, in essence, a “Goldilocks” government- not efficient, not too inefficient, but just inefficient enough. Party politics however, as warned against by George Washington himself, has thrown off the equilibrium of efficiency needed in order to do anything we would call governing.
Ultimately, there are many differences between the United States and the European Union. The biggest of these though, is the general desire to get something done. In the face of unanimous consent, countries and representatives are willing to bend their agendas in order to work together. Each and every party is equally important, despite their population or even GDP, because they hold the power to say “no.” This power has lead to a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” system of governing that has proved to work very well. Instead of political representatives that make their living disagreeing and fighting every premise of the opposing view, they typically work together to find similarities they can capitalize on. These similarities act as a fulcrum on which they can balance opposing views.
With only two parties, Americans are forced to assimilate to one of two different ideologies, and one of these parties always has majority. This means that in every governing body, one half of the population is being represented better than the other half, and the half that is being represented better isn’t being represented as effectively as they could with more political parties. Abandoning the two party political system would presumably remove “majority” from any one political party, forcing different specialized parties, that represent a more specific group of people, to work together in order to pass any one specific bill.