The Efficient Secret: How America Nearly Adopted a Parliamentary System, and Why It Should Have Done So


The American presidential system, with its separation of powers, plausibly imposes enormous costs on the economy without compensating gains, as seen in the current gridlock over the debt crisis. Modern parliamentary systems of government, such as those in Britain and Canada, seem to handle such problems more efficiently. Regretfully, however, the principle of separationism has been extended in Supreme Court decisions and in the Senate filibuster, in part because of the mistaken idea that this is what the Founders intended. A close examination of the preferences of the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 tells a very different story. Had they voted on our present regime of presidential elections, they almost certainly would have rejected it. This conclusion is buttressed by an empirical analysis of delegate voting patterns.