China in Transition: Communism, Capitalism, and Democracy

By Ronald M. Glassman | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
The Democratic State in Giant, Powerful, Complex Nations

In small homogeneous nations, such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the legal parliamentary state in its minimalist form can probably fulfill the political needs of the nation. That is, the prime minister and the cabinet, along with a civil service bureaucracy, the police force, and a small military establishment, are all that are needed to maintain order. Even if such nations decide to establish an extensive welfare state, as in Sweden, the welfare bureaucracy need not be extensive, nor need it be empowered to interfere with or control the lives of the recipients of its benefits. The Swedish welfare state, though one of the most comprehensive in the world, does not exhibit the kind of all-encompassing bureaucratic control and interference typical of the communist party bureaucracies of Russia or China (or of the Prussian bureaucracy in the era of Bismarck). The Swedish bureaucracy is, however, annoying and controlling enough to have engendered the ombudsman system as a protection for the citizens against bureaucratic authoritarianism. 1

We will discuss the problem of the welfare state for communist societies in transition later. First, let us discuss what could be a major problem for Russia and China, the two communist behemoths. In giant, powerful, complex nations, such as Russia and China, along with the legal parliamentary state, there will be the definite need--nay, requirement--for the establishment of a powerful executive branch of government. We can break the executive branch of a democratic government down into four constituent parts. First, there will have to be a strong chief executive, whether a prime minister or a president, with an extensive cabinet. The problems herein for large communist nations in transition are twofold: how powerful should the executive be in relation to the legislature, and should a giant nation opt for the American presidential system or the English-

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