Archive for June, 2022

Comparing Cabinets: Dilemmas of Collective Government

Patrick Weller, Dennis Grube and R.A.W. Rhodes

Why is cabinet government so resilient? Despite many obituaries, why does it continue to be the vehicle for governing across most parliamentary systems? This book answers these questions by examining the structure and performance of cabinet government in five democracies: the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Australia. The book is organized around the dilemmas that cabinet governments must solve: how to develop the formal rules and practices that can bring predictability to the daily business and allow consistent decision making; how to balance good policy with good politics; how to ensure cohesion between the factions and parties that constitute the cabinet while allowing levels of self-interest to be advanced; how leaders can balance persuasion and command; and how to maintain support through accountability at the same time as being able to make unpopular decisions. All these dilemmas are continuing challenges to cabinet government, never solvable, and constantly reappearing in different forms. We ask how traditions, beliefs, and practices shape the answers. The different practices between the democracies examined show there can be no single definition of cabinet government. This comparative approach provides analysis and insights into the process of cabinet government that cannot be achieved in the study of any single political system. We better understand the pressures on each system by appreciating the options that are elsewhere accepted as common beliefs.