Presidents and Prime Ministers

By Richard Rose; Ezra N. Suleiman | Go to book overview
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Government against
A European Perspective on Washington

Richard Rose

"We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

Benjamin Franklin, at Philadelphia, 4 July 1776

Politics is about the representation of conflicting demands; government is about resolving these conflicts authoritatively and to a nation's benefit. In principle, the two activities should be complementary. In practice, politics and government can be in opposition, for what people want or what interest groups demand may not be what government can (or should) provide. A government must be responsive to popular demands to maintain political consent. Yet a government must also make decisions that are unpopular yet necessary to maintain its collective authority.

NOTE: This was written while the author was a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., for the first three months of 1980, a particularly stimulating time to be in a stimulating environment. Useful comments and criticisms on the ideas expressed herein were received from Bruce Adams, Dom Bonafede, Colin Campbell, I. M. Destler, Leon Epstein, Hugh Heclo, Tom Mann, B. Guy Peters, Michael Pitfield, Austin Ranney, James A. Reichler, Bert A. Rockman, Harold Seidman, Lester Seligman, James L. Sundquist, Peter Szanton, and Aaron Wildavsky. The author also benefited from discussing ideas at seminars of the Kennedy School for Government at Harvard; at a conference on the Institutionalized Presidency jointly organized by the National Academy of Public Administration and the White Burkett Miller Center at the University of Virginia; and at a joint seminar of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution on Giving Direction to Government, organized with considerable efficiency and energy by Bradley H. Patterson, Jr. None of the above named is responsible for what the author has argued herein.

In view of the particular thrust of the chapter, it should be emphasized that the author writes from the perspective of a Truman Democrat, albeit a native Missourian who has "come a long way from St. Louis" since commencing the study of comparative politics by sailing to England in 1953, and has crossed the Atlantic many times since to study governments on opposite sides of the Atlantic.


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