Comparing governmental institutions from one country to another can be fun, especially if the comparisons confront the actualities of practice as the essays here assembled try to do. But beyond fun are rewards of insight. Few of us can ever hope to understand another governmental system as well as--if we work at it--we have a chance to understand our own. The nuances of language, culture, and history raise barriers too high for that. But looking at another system helps illuminate our own, which is precisely what these essays do.
"By contrast with Washington," writes Richard Rose of leadership in London, "a Prime Minister does not depend upon personally loyal but bureaucratically amateur advisers. By contrast with Paris, a Prime Minister does not turn civil servants into his political agents, looking to the President for their future career." That last is an allusion to Ezra Suleiman's essay on the Elysée. Of all the differences between our Presidential system and the "Presidentialist" regime under the Fifth Republic up to now, none is more striking than the network of relationships nurtured by the present French President with former colleagues from the bureaucratic elite. In Washington, who are their counterparts? Who could be his?
This book is addressed mainly to Americans. It looks at the contemporary roles of political leaders in Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, and West Germany. Each chapter frequently reminds us of the White House. In his concluding essay Rose makes the contrast explicit, playing off the others against ours, posing likenesses among them against differences with us, highlighting what our Presidency lacks:
The distinctive feature of Cabinet government is that all of the participants . . . are bound politically to collective deci