Comparative Political Systems: Policy Performance and Social Change

By Charles F. Andrain | Go to book overview

4
Reconciliation Systems

Of all political systems, the reconciliation type has best embodied democratic ideals, particularly freedom and equality. Civil liberties guarantee the rights to assembly, demonstration, organization, and communication. Pluralism in government and society maintain leaders' commitment to political freedom. Public policymakers represent diverse interests and uphold the legitimacy of interest conflicts. Competitive political parties, an elected legislature, an independent mass media, and voluntary associations render government policies accountable to citizens. Political equality stems from widespread participation in the policy process. High access to information and other resources enables each citizen to articulate policy preferences, receive a fair hearing, and help shape public decisions. Citizens gain the freedom to debate policy options, criticize others' views, and decide issues on the merits of the arguments.

Reconciliation systems thrive in market economies. In a liberal democracy private entrepreneurs enjoy extensive opportunities to make decisions free from state intervention. An equilibrium emerges between conflict and consensus. Businesses compete with each other and with labor unions. Legal obligations regulate interest group conflicts. In a social democracy policymakers stress the need for class compromises. Unified labor unions play an active policy role, negotiating with centralized business corporations over wages, prices, and working conditions. Government officials, business executives, and labor union leaders take joint actions that regulate the market economy. Comprehensive social service benefits increase income equality. 1

The guiding principle of a reconciliation system is interest accommodation. Because of the extensive pluralism, this system needs rules and institutions that accommodate conflicting interests. Participants in the policy process interpret politics as a game. The main players or teams are dispersed government agencies, autonomous interest groups, and coalitional political parties. Strategies for goal attainment involve cooperation and conflict. To secure policy victories, each team must negotiate bargains, form coalitions, and mediate conflicting

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