Political Science 325
Dr. Shelley Rigger
Dr. Patrick Sellers
Law-making is one of the core functions of government. Every political system in the world today includes an institution devoted to this function. But not all political systems approach law-making in the same way. While every legislative institution is slightly different from the rest, most national legislatures follow one of two dominant models: the independent legislature characteristic of presidential systems, or the fused legislative-executive structure known as parliamentary government. The purpose of this course is to explore these two legislative options in detail, looking at the US as an example of presidentialism, and the United Kingdom as an example of parliamentarism. We will also consider a legislative institution, China’s National People’s Congress, that combines aspects of presidential and parliamentary government in a single-party state.
We will make a systematic comparison of the three legislatures’ institutional set-up, procedural rules, partisan make-up and (s)election process. By comparing the different legislatures’ institutional structures and political contexts students will increase their knowledge of American, British and Chinese politics; gain a fuller appreciation of the variety law-making institutions that exist in the world; and practice the methods of comparative political analysis. More importantly, comparing legislatures highlights the extent to which different institutional rules and contexts produce different policy outcomes. Who gets what, when, where and why depends to a great extent on how the organs of government are constituted. Electoral rules, party systems, legislative procedures – all of these play central roles in the distribution of national resources and the shape of national policy. They also help to determine how states balance the critical functions of representation and effective governance.
POL325 counts toward the social science core curriculum requirement. Within political science, students will be able to count the course as either American or Comparative, but not both. Students who have already completed POL311 (Legislative Process) are not eligible to take POL325, due to overlap in course content.
Above all, you must read. The course will incorporate discussion and lecture, and class discussion will be an important learning opportunity. While we expect you to participate, we recognize that some students are more gregarious than others. If you are not a big talker, you may take heart from the fact that quality is more important than quantity, and asking a good question is just a valuable as making a good comment. We will cover a great deal of unfamiliar material. Do not hesitate to raise questions.
The overall grade will be made up of several components
We will convert the numerical grades into letter grades using the following scale: A = 95; A- = 91; B+ = 88; B = 85, etc.
Anything you hand in is pledged work. But as a reminder of the honor code's importance, I would like you to write out the honor code in full on the cover sheet of any work you hand in. ("On my honor I pledge that I have neither given nor received help on this work, nor am I aware of any violation on the part of others.") Please make sure you understand the honor code, especially the definition of plagiarism. If you have any questions, doubts or concerns about any aspect of the honor code, please come and talk to me. If you are unsure of how you should cite material used in an essay, please discuss it with me.
Lateness policy: Work that is handed in after class on the day an assignment is due will be penalized 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late. That means that if you hand in an A+ paper at noon on the day the paper is due, you will receive an A. But no matter how late a paper is, it is always to your advantage to hand it in. Computer failure is not an acceptable excuse for lateness. Back up your work. If you are having printer trouble, email the paper as an attachment. Do not assume you have secured my permission for something unless you have spoken to me in person or received an e-mail or voice mail message from me.
Extensions: Please do not ask for extensions because you have “too much work;” everyone does, and it’s unfair to give extensions to those who ask, while those who don’t ask end up with less time to do a good job. Also, no extensions will be granted for extracurricular commitments. Look at your athletic, musical, union and theatrical schedules in advance, and plan your work accordingly.
Honor Code: We encourage you to talk about politics, including the material in this class, with your classmates and anyone else you can find who is interested in the topic. When the time comes to complete written work, though, it must yours and yours alone. Ideas and phrases that originated with others need to be quoted or paraphrased, and cited. Bear in mind that one sign of conscientious research is an abundance of quotations and citations. If you ever, at any time, have a question about citation, plagiarism or anything else, please speak to one of us. We are happy to help you learn the proper techniques and procedures of scholarly research. You may use the spell and grammar checking features of your word processor, and you may ask friends to read your papers for clarity, but they should not correct your mistakes for you.
(each reading assignment is due the day it appears on the schedule)
Week 1 :
1/17: What is a legislature?
1/19: The Logic of Separated Powers
1/22: Is Congress a “Broken Branch”?
1/24: Electing Congress
1/26: Parties and Elections
1/29: Members and constituents
1/31: How representative is Congress?
2/2: The House of Representatives
2/5: The House of Representatives
2/9: The Senate
2/16: SimulationWeek 6:
2/19: Legislative-Executive Relations
2/21: A Broken Branch?
2/23: No Class (work on your essays)
2/26: The Logic of the British System
First Essay Due
2/28: The British Constitution
3/2: No Class
3/12: Ideas and Interests
3/14: Political Parties
3/16: Parliamentary elections
3/19: Comparing electoral systems
3/21: Parliament in action
3/23: Parliament in action (continued)
3/26: The House of Lords
3/28: Legislative-executive relations
3/30: Legislative-executive relations
4/2: Debate: Be it Resolved: Parliamentary government affords both greater representativeness and greater legislative than presidential government; therefore, the US constitution should be rewritten on a parliamentary framework.
4/9: No Class (Easter Break)
4/11: The European Union
4/13: Who Governs Britain?
4/16: Introducing the Chinese Political System
4/18: The Chinese Communist Party
4/20: Selecting NPC delegates
4/23: Rules and procedures
4/25: The NPC’s contribution to governing China
4/27: The Future of Legislative Government in China
4/30: Comparing Legislatures