A Critique of Riggsian Anti-Presidentialism Gibberish

A blind supporter of a nihilistic, pro-welfare movement in the Philippines, which naively advocates parliamentarism, asked me to view a YouTube video that tackles why “presidential system is a dangerous American export”. The video was mainly based on Fred W. Riggs’s attack on American presidentialism. In 1994, Riggs, a professor emeritus of political science at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, published his utterly flawed comparative analysis titled Problems of Presidentialism and the American Exception.

The Abstract of Riggs’s study states:

The American constitutional system based on the separation of powers was modeled on a transitional stage in the evolution of democracy as experienced in 18th century England. With Kings struggling to retain power against insurgent parliamentary forces, a precarious imbalance of power existed which the Founding Fathers copied in America, but sought to stabilize by an ingenious though precarious system of checks and balances. When other countries imitated this plan — as in virtually all of Latin America and some countries in Africa, Asia, and the post-Soviet arena — they typically experienced break-downs followed by despotism. By contrast, in the United States, despite severe crises such as a major Civil War and the Depression, the system has survived until today, a truly exceptional experience that calls for explanations, as proposed here.

Meanwhile, all the other industrial democracies, on the basis of 19th century developments in the UK, have adopted a significantly different constitutional design based on an the accountability of Cabinet Government to Parliamentary controls that evolved in England half a century after the American Revolution. Although no constitutional plan can guarantee success for any country, the likelihood that parliamentary regimes will survive is far greater than the prospects for those based on the separation-of-powers. Even the best recipe can be spoiled by a bad cook, but all cooks are more likely to succeed following better rather than worse recipes.

First, I observed the intellectual bankruptcy and utter desperation of this nihilistic group to blindly promote parliamentary system by presenting the many “alleged” studies conducted by pro-parliamentary “intellectuals” who happen to be notorious liberals, leftists, globalists and statists. Some of these pro-parliamentary statists and liberals are CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who believes that India’s parliamentary form of government is superior to America’s presidential form of government, and  Fred Riggs, who published his 1994 error-filled comparative analysis.

Let me make the following comments on Riggs’s highly fallacious, anti-intellectual analysis:

1. Riggs believes that “only a two-party system is compatible, in the long run, with presidentialism.” This shows Riggs’s ignorance of politics and of the concept of form of government. This despite the fact that he somehow knew that a “two-party system is not necessarily a permanent feature of any presidentialist regime.” If we try to look at real-world facts, we can safely assume that Riggs’s conclusion, therefore, is highly fallacious. A government may implement presidentialism with major modifications. Proof: Philippines and other presidential governments. In fact, I can argue that the Philippine’s multi-party system is a big liability or downside because we all know that all political parties in the country today do not really represent distinctive political agenda and aspirations. A two-party system is the current, or long-standing, electoral practice in the United States because of the country’s electoral college, the system that officially elects the President and Vice President every four years.

2. Like most advocates of parliamentarism, Riggs committed the fallacy of “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation”, since he argues that the “frequent collapse of presidentialist regimes in about 30 third world” is the proof that the “political formula [of presidential system” is seriously flawed”.  Again, what is the reason why the Philippines further collapsed after adopting a Constitution with a higher degree of protectionism and welfare system? What is the reason why America’s economy collapsed in 2008? Is it not because of the country’s many failed economic and political policies, as evidenced by countless of economic studies conducted by economists and think tanks like the Doing Business dot Org and the Heritage Foundation?

It must be noted that Riggs published his study in 1994. Too bad he died years ago in that he can no longer amend or revise his utterly flawed analysis. Today, we see the inevitable collapse of many European nations that adopted parliamentarism. Can we also conclude that these global economic trends suggest that the political formula of parliamentarism is also seriously flawed. But I do not share Riggs’s and other alleged thinkers’ political ignorance.

Many members (like Greece, Spain and Italy) of the EU are experiencing serious economic and financial troubles because of the EU continental government’s failed political and economic policies. The 27 member-states of the union are now being governed by a global parliamentary political body (with unelected officials) in Brussels. Is this system beneficial to the interests of these EU nations? Reality has it that this political scheme proves to be highly dangerous and destructive to the sovereignty of the EU nations and to the future and interests of their people.

3. Riggs’s “comparative analysis of presidentialism” is utterly flawed and was based on junk economics and politics. Again, this is because his alleged analysis committed the fallacy of “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation”. Comparing nations’ forms of government is worse than the discredited method being applied by Keynesian economists. Riggs assumed that the main reason why nations failed is because of their adopted forms of government. Like many misguided proponents of parliamentarism, Riggs did not clearly understand the difference between form of government and political system.

4. Riggs’s analysis was based on an utterly false premise. As already stated, he assumed that many states failed in the past because of their adopted forms of government, not because of their implemented economic and political policies. Today, real-world facts and evidence show that both presidential and parliamentary governments experience deep economic recession due to failed economic and political policies, not because of their forms of government. In fact, the attention of economic analysts and economists is now focused on the EU, which is desperately trying to fix its serious economic troubles. Since 2008, the United States, under the Obama regime, tried to solve the country’s economic mess by doubling the size of its government. That is, by issuing more regulatory policies, adopting bailout and stimulus programs, nationalizing private companies and banks, etc. However, the same statist solution was also adopted by many European governments like Great Britain, Greece, Spain, Italy, etc.

5. Riggs’s assumption that presidentialist regimes have to be conservative. He claims:“I have argued that presidentialist regimes have to be conservative in order to survive whereas parliamentary regimes may well move much further in the direction of social democracy and the regulation of capitalist enterprises .”

Recent political realities debunked this claim, as the United States and many countries the world over have become statist-liberals or welfare states. The problem with Riggs’s assumption is that he naively equated conservatism with the free market system. America and the Philippines have recently and currently adopted what he called “social democracy and the regulation of capitalist enterprises”, which he deemed inherent in parliamentary regimes.

6. Riggs suggested an “interdependence of capitalism and presidentialism.” Here’s one of the most controversial yet naive statements made by Riggs: “By supporting candidates in both parties whose views support capitalism, even though tinged with enough commitment to social justice to ameliorate the most flagrant causes of unrest, contributors help to maintain the system.” Again, recent and current political realities prove him wrong. The election of Obama proves that many businesses and firms did not support capitalism, but corporatism. I even suspect that Riggs did not clearly understand the concept of capitalism, as as his discussion suggests that he used capitalism and corporatism (including “shrewd capitalism) interchangeably.

He also concluded “that capitalism–in conjunction with federalism–helps to perpetuate an open party system in the U.S., even though it could not create such a system.” Again, reality is the only objective arbiter to prove whether Riggs’s utterly flawed conclusion is true or not. What cannot be denied is that reality proves him wrong.


The Intellectual Bankruptcy of the Pro-Parliamentary Demagogues

It’s the Political System, Stupid!

Basic Principles for Presidential Type of Government

Fareed Zakaria’s Parliamentary Drivel

Presidential System Over Parliamentary System

The Origin of ‘Cult of Personality’

The Moral Base of the Filipino Nation and Philippine’s Intellectual Bankruptcy

Uncle Sam to Pinas: ‘Scrap Protectionism!’



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