Edited by David Levi-Faur
Chapter 12: Policymaking Accountability: Parliamentary versus Presidential Systems
Susan Rose-Ackerman Modern states cannot realistically limit policymaking to the legislature. Pressing contemporary issues are too technically complex, too dynamic, and too numerous for busy, non-expert legislators to resolve in detail. Delegation under broad, framework statutes is essential for effective government, but this does not eliminate the need for democratic responsiveness. Hence committed democrats need to work toward the public accountability of all policymaking – not just in the legislature, but in other institutions as well. Periodic elections are not a sufficient popular check on government. Government accountability is a source of political legitimacy in three distinct senses. Call these performance accountability, rights-based accountability, and policymaking accountability.1 The first sense requires the state to carry out public programs competently, using expert professionals as needed and assuring a high level of efficiency and integrity in the public service. Political actors set the goals, and bureaucrats ought to carry them out in a cost-effective way – using their specialized knowledge. The key word is “competence.” It implies both the use of experts and the existence of hard-working, well-trained civil servants who do not take bribes, embezzle funds, or create conflicts of interest. Call this performance accountability. It requires both transparency and a means of holding officials to account if they perform poorly. Second, rights-based accountability implies legal constraints that protect individuals against the abuses of arbitrary power. It is not conditional on popular sovereignty. These rights may be enforced through a written, constitutional list of rights or by applying judicial concepts of “natural justice...
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