DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL SYSTEMS IN WESTERN EUROPE AND THE U.S.
This research paper discusses the similarities and differences between parliamentary democracy in Western Europe and the American political system. Despite many differences, the two systems share basic values, including a common belief in the sovereignty of the popular will exercised directly and through elected representatives, constitutional government and the protection of the rights of minorities.
1. Unitary v. federalist systems. Under the American Constitution, political power is shared among national, state and local governments. All powers not expressly granted to the national government are reserved to the States. Each state, regardless of the size of its population is guaranteed two seats in the co-equal legislative branch, the Senate. Federal courts decide where the boundaries between the federal government and the states lie.
Most European governments are unitary with one national government having the power to make laws and enact executive decrees binding the whole nation. Most legislatures are bicameral, except in Sweden. Typically, the lower house, such as the House of Commons has stronger powers than the upper house.
However, Switzerland has a federalist structure in which 26 regional cantons have substantial autonomy, are consulted on federal legislation and in which a majority of the cantons have a veto power over the passage of constitutional amendments.
In the United States, the powers of the central government greatly expanded in the 20th century, but today the trend is toward devolving more power to the states, especially with respect to the implementation of domestic policy. Federalism is on the rise in Western Europe. Substantial regional powers are decentralized under the German federal constitutional to regional Lander. New regional political parties such as the Scottish National Party in Great Britain and regionally-based parties...