Element of Strength in Cabinet Government in the first place, it is claimed for the cabinet system that it is the only system which (except, of course, the discarded autocracy) insures harmonious cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of the government. As pointed out in a previous chapter, the feature which distinguishes it from the presidential system is the conjunction of the executive and legislative organs.
Collaboration between the Executive and the Legislative Departments :-
The cabinet-the real executive body is in effect a committee of the legislature. Its members are usually at the same time members of the legislature in the rare cases in which they are not, they are permitted to occupy seats in the legislature, or one chamber thereof, for the purpose of being heard and of being interpellated in regard to their, official acts and policies. They may themselves introduce and advocate the adoption of the legislative measures which they wish to have enacted into law and the granting of the appropriations of money which in their opinion are necessary to carry on the government.
When the measures which they propose have been enacted into law the ,cabinet is charged with seeing that they are executed when the services which they propose to establish are provided for by law, they see that these services are duly organized and put into Operation and when the sums of money which they ask for are granted, they are charged with seeing that they are properly expended and applied to the purposes for which they were appropriated. From first to last there is full and harmonious collaboration between the law-making and money granting authorities, on the one hand, and the law-enforcing and money spending authorities, on the other.
This results normally from the fact that the cabinet is made up of representatives of the majority party in the legislature or the chamber to which it is responsible. Consequently, there is no working at cross purposes and rarely any deadlocks between the executive and legislative organs such as may happen, and frequently do happen, in countries where the presidential system is in existence.
Manifestly this unity of purpose, this intimate and direct connection between the two great political departments of government, whose harmonious cooperation is so essential, is one of the outstanding merits of the cabinet system. No other system is so well adapted to securing prompt, expeditious, and efficient government action.
In the second place the cabinet system Is the only system under which the responsibility of those who execute the laws, administer the government, and spend the Public revenues is effectively provided for. This responsibility is immediately to the legislature, or to the chamber which rests upon a popular basis, and indirectly and more remotely to the electorate. At any moment when the policies or acts of the cabinet cease to meet the approval of the chosen representatives of the people it may be turned out of office and a new one having the confidence of the legislature installed in its place.
But in case the cabinet believes that its own policies, rather than those of the legislature, represent the opinions of the electorate, it may have the legislature dissolved and may appeal directly to the electorate and have it decide the issue. Thus the right of dissolution furnishes the cabinet with an arm of defense and at the same time insures that the will of the electorate shall prevail.
The obvious merit of such a system is that those who actually govern the country are always subject to the control of those who are governed a control which may be exercised in the First instance by their chosen representatives, and in the second instance, when there is a conflict of opinion between them and the cabinet, by the people themselves through the form of a parliamentary election.
Under such a system a prolonged continuance, by those who govern, of policies and conduct which do not meet the approval of the people or of the representatives is impossible. It is not necessary to endure them until the expiration of a term of years, as is necessary where the presidential system prevails as stated above, the government may be turned out of office at any time and the will of the people Or that of their elected representatives given immediate effect. Such a system is often and very properly described as responsible government and because it is Such in a more marked degree than the presidential system, it has commended itself to the peoples of the vast majority of the countries of the world.
A third merit claimed for the cabinet system one which Bagehot emphasized is its flexibility and elasticity, which may be elements of strength in times of national emergency and crises. Under such a system, as Bagehot pointed out, the people can, upon sudden emergencies, choose a ruler for the occasion, one who may be especially qualified for guiding the nation through a dangerous crisis.
Under a presidential system, he said, you can do nothing of the kind. The American government calls itself a government of the supreme people but at a quick crisis, the time when a sovereign power is most needed, you cannot find the supreme people.
You have got 21 Congress elected for one fixed period, going out perhaps by fixed installments, which cannot be accelerated or retarded you have a President chosen for a fixed period, and irremovable during that period all the arrangements are for stated times.
There is no elastic element everything is rigid, specified, stated. Come what may, you can quicken nothing and can retard nothing. You have bespoken your government in advance, and whether it suits you or not, whether it works well or works ill, whether it is what you want or not, by law you must keep it.
Defects of the Cabinet System :
Some objections have been urged against the cabinet system. First, it violates a principle of government much cherished by certain political thinkers in that it means a virtual union of legislative and executive functions which, it is said, should be kept separate and in trusted to distinct organs, each independent, or nearly so, of the other. It should be said, however, that this is largely a theory, the practical value of which has hardly been demonstrated by the results of actual experience.
On the contrary, it is believed that the history of the actual working of cabinet government has established the value of the intimate connection between, and close cooperation of, the executive and legislative departments, which is one of the outstanding features of the cabinet system. In the second place, it has been urged against the cabinet system that it is too largely a system of party government-that especially in countries where there are only two important political parties, it places the whole control of public policies in the hands of the party which has the majority in the legislature or in the particular chamber to which the cabinet is responsible.
It is not easy to see, however, why this is not equally true of the presidential system. In fact, in the continental European countries generally, where the cabinet system is found and where usually no single party has a majority in the legislature, the cabinet is controlled not by a single party but by a bloc of parties.
In the third place, the cabinet system of Great Britain,especially has recently been criticized as a dictatorship of one man or of a small group of men exercised through a subservient party majority of more or less tied members. The House of commons has, it is said, practically ceased to exercise its power of legislation, having virtually abdicated its functions in favor of the cabinet, which contents itself with the negative role of a vetoing and controlling body.
In short, the real government of Great Britain is nowadays carried on, not in the House of Commons at all, nor even in the cabinet, but in private conferences between ministers, with their principal officials and the representatives of the persons especially affected by any proposed legislation or by an action on the part of the administration.
This is in part true. The House of Commons is an assembly so large and unwieldy that effective discussion has become in large measure impossible, the power of legislation has tended to shift from the House to the ministry and the former has come to be mainly a “Ventilating chamber.” In these circumstances the House, as Bagehot remarked, chooses its leaders and then follows them. It is as if the House were to say to the ministers, There are too many of us to legislate, we have therefore chosen you to guide and direct us because we recognize you as our leaders and because.
We have confidence in you we leave it to you to formulate the legislative measures which in your judgment should be passed, and to determine the sums of money which you consider necessary to carry on the established public services and the taxes required to produce these sums. If we think the measures which you propose are wise, we will give our assent, and so with the grants of money which you demand and the taxes which you propose.
We shall, however, watch over and control you and hold you accountable for conduct and policies, and we warn you that whenever they cease to meet our approval we will turn you out and confer our authority on a new set of ministers. To this extent the House, as stated above, has abdicated its initiative and leadership in favor of a small select body of its members in whom it has full confidence.
It is a fair question to raise, however whether the American system, under which the House divides itself into a multiplicity of committees, each of which is a miniature legislature and in the narrow rooms of which all real legislation takes place, is any better solution than that of Great Britain, where the House relies, upon a single committee composed of its parliamentary leaders. Under modern conditions with large and unwieldy legislative assemblies the actual work of legislation must necessarily be devolved upon smaller groups.
The British system is based on the view that the better solution is to devolve this authority on a single committee composed of the leaders of the majority party in parliament on the other hand, the Americans prefer to divide it among a large number of committees upon which both parties are unequally represented.
Defects of the Cabinet System Peculiar to Certain Countries :-
Naturally there are certain defects of cabinet government which are not necessarily inherent in the system itself but due to special conditions in the different countries where the system is in operation such as the peculiar political psychology and traditions of the people, the existence of a multiplicity of political parties, and the methods of parliamentary procedure which are followed.
Thus in France the unreadiness (if the chambers to follow their chosen parliamentary leaders as the British .House of Commons does, the abuse of the practice of interpolation to harass the ministers, the disposition to throw them out on relatively unimportant-sometimes trivial-issues rather than upon fundamental questions of general policy, have made the smooth working of the cabinet system impossible. In consequence of the existence of the multiple party system on the continent of Europe generally, the success of the cabinet system has been markedly less than in Great Britain.
These cabinets are necessarily constituted on the coalition principle they are consequently weak, and being responsible to a bloc of parties, they are usually short-lived. The result is as pointed out in a previous chapter, cabinets rise and fall with distressing rapidity, and the conduct of the government is characterized by instability and lack of continuity of policy.
It Was this situation in Italy which under Mussolini’s leadership has brought about the most interesting of all innovations upon the cabinet system, namely, provision that the political party which elects a bare majority of the Chamber shall for the purpose of voting be reckoned as having two thirds of the members.