Bini Smaghi vs. the Parties: Representative Government and Institutional Constraints
Although it is generally seen as desirable that parties in government are both responsive and responsible, these two characteristics are now in increasing tension with one another. Prudence and consistency in government, as well as accountability, requires that governments conform to external constraints and past legacies, and not just answer to public opinion, and while these external constraints and legacies have grown in weight in recent years, public opinion, in its turn, has become harder and harder for governments to read and process. Meanwhile, because of changes in their organizations and in their relationship with civil society, parties in government are no longer in a position to bridge or ‘manage’ this gap, or even to persuade voters to accept it as a necessary element in political life. This problem is illustrated by extensive reference to the current fiscal crisis in Ireland, and is also used to question some of the assumptions that are involved in principal-agent treatments of the parliamentary chain of delegation.
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