Comparative politics in the news

I was excited to read two recent posts by Harvard undergrad Dylan Matthews comparing legislative organization in Britain and France to that in the US. Ezra Klein is featuring Dylan’s articles on his Washington Post blog. The two pieces so far have been quite well done, overall, and it’s nice to see that some oversights (such as Dylan’s overlooking the role of local constituency committees in candidate selection in the UK) have been pointed out in the comments. Conclusions about how things would be different in the US with this or that change in electoral law, party organization, or legislative procedure based on how things operate in other countries are of course difficult, but it’s a step in the right direction to see the features of our own government in the context of the variety of institutional forms in existence.

This seems to be a moment of unusual reflection and dissatisfaction about our political institutions: the Left is angry about the filibuster, Congressional paralysis, and Ben Nelson-style horsetrading; the recent Citizens United case has provoked new concern about money in politics and calls for constitutional amendments on political financing. It’s great to see Ezra Klein and Dylan Matthews brining in a comparative perspective, although I’d like to see some professional political scientists enter the fray and make themselves useful — I’ll try.