I recently returned from a trip to Europe (vacation) and it really started me thinking about the U.S. political system. I noticed a couple things that were quite ironic.
First, Germany (where I spent the largest amount of time) is actively in the process of privatizing all kinds of government services. This at a time when the U.S. federal government is attempting to take over more and more private sector functions.
Second, the parliamentary system was a real eye-opener for me. I know it is not new, but I had never looked at the parliamentary system before. Talking with European residents help me see it in a different light. Having been born and raised in the U.S. I thought that our system was obviously the best. But I noticed something during this trip to Europe which made me envious of the European parliamentary system (at least the one in Germany!) Let me try to explain why.
In the U.S. we elect politicians based on the "person." We elect the person that we "like" the best. That is why if you look at the last 100 years of U.S. Presidential elections you will notice that it is almost always the more "personally appealing" candidate who is elected. The voters do not pay attention to the work history or the past actions of the candidate. OK, now for the Psychological part of this...Industrial Psychologists know that the best predictor of a person's performance on the job is that person's "past performance," especially their most recent past performance in similar jobs. In the U.S. the electorate never looks at a candidate's past performance, but only at the current promises he/she is making...Big Mistake! (I will make another entry on this topic in the near future.)
How is it different in Germany? Well, in Germany people go to the polls and they vote for a "party" and the party policies, not a candidate. That way they are voting for the ideas and actions of a party, not the personality of the candidate. The party then places the person in the job and the person is more likely to carry out the policies of the party. Of course the policies are what the people voted on. It makes a lot more sense, don't you think?
In the U.S. we don't look at the candidate's past performance but mostly on his/her personal appeal. The media doesn't help either. They tend to focus on all kinds of superficial information also. And both the candidates and the media tend to want it all in 30 second sound bites...so what we get is bad information. Think about it this way...one would never hire an employee the way our president is chosen, so why would we pick the person for the most powerful position in the world that way. It just doesn't make sense!