Bicameralism versus Unicameralism

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flibber
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#1
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#1
Is there a particular advantage in having two legislative bodies (e.g. House of Commons and House of Lords in the UK, the House of Representatives and the Senate in the USA) instead of one?

Surely laws won't be passed as easily if the two houses are controlled by two different parties (as was the case in the United States between 2011 and 2015)?
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Pro Crastination
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#2
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#2
(Original post by flibber)
Is there a particular advantage in having two legislative bodies (e.g. House of Commons and House of Lords in the UK, the House of Representatives and the Senate in the USA) instead of one?

Surely laws won't be passed as easily if the two houses are controlled by two different parties (as was the case in the United States between 2011 and 2015)?
As far as my very limited recollections of AS politics go:

A bicameral system such as the one in the US exists exactly to ensure that laws won't be passed as easily, and that there will be greater opportunity for scrutiny of proposed laws. I believe the ideal laid out by one or some (really can't remember who) of the founding fathers was that the system was supposed to be cooperative (as opposed to Adversarial, as the British Parliament is) and as such laws could be passed, but only if they could generate cross floor support, and this would ensure that representatives work together. What we've seen over the last fifty years (I think) is the polarisation of the two major US parties, which has essentially led to the childish antics both parties are guilty of in not allowing the other to pass any laws.

I think really it depends whether you prefer to have a government that can be strong and effective in creating and passing laws - something like a five year dictatorship. Or whether you want a great deal of scrutiny over laws, which might lead to very few being passed.
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gladders
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#3
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#3
(Original post by flibber)
Is there a particular advantage in having two legislative bodies (e.g. House of Commons and House of Lords in the UK, the House of Representatives and the Senate in the USA) instead of one?
A second chamber can represent something different from the lower house, and offer different points of view that a chamber simply representing the people may not immediately offer. For the USA, the Senate represents the States; in the UK, the House of Lords is generally a chamber of expertise and excels in improving the technical detail of legislation. As Lords are for life and Senators for 6-year terms, both chambers can have a longer-term view of things different from the lower houses, which are constantly thinking of what's going to happen next week.

Bicameralism can help to filter out poorly-considered matters or spend more time scrutinising details the lower house did not have time to deal with.

Surely laws won't be passed as easily if the two houses are controlled by two different parties (as was the case in the United States between 2011 and 2015)?
In the UK, that problem is nullified by the Parliament Acts - the Lords can only delay controversial legislation, and the Commons can, if determined, eventually overrule its objections.

It's rarely applied though - about 15 times in a century - as normally both Houses come to an agreement before that happens.
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L i b
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#4
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#4
(Original post by flibber)
Is there a particular advantage in having two legislative bodies (e.g. House of Commons and House of Lords in the UK, the House of Representatives and the Senate in the USA) instead of one?

Surely laws won't be passed as easily if the two houses are controlled by two different parties (as was the case in the United States between 2011 and 2015)?
Not passing laws easily is generally held to be a good thing in many circumstances.

Different types of chamber have different merits. In the UK, ours is primarily a revising chamber where legislation can be examined in more depth and without the partisanship of the Commons. In the Senate, the two bodies are more equal in political terms: it does make legislating harder, but equally provides and extra check on powers.

For my part, I don't like two equal, elected chambers: the difference in roles is diluted. I want to keep the Lords unelected - ideally as appointed, but without the hereditary elements. Its advice should be considered carefully by the government, but the Commons should have the ultimate authority in tax and spend issues, as well as being able to override the Lords in exceptional circumstances - as happens now.

If you look at the Scottish Parliament, for example, which is unicameral, this system simply doesn't exist. It was thought of as a chamber where there would be minority governments and a strong committee system to do the job of revising and hold the government of the day to account. Neither has worked out. It's left the legislature as more or less a talking shop.

Most democracies have bicameral structures, although different theories are attached to their purpose. In general terms though, a mixed system provides for more checks and balances on government.
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gladders
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#5
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#5
(Original post by L i b)
Most democracies have bicameral structures, although different theories are attached to their purpose. In general terms though, a mixed system provides for more checks and balances on government.
Actually most are unicameral - about two thirds, IIRC.
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L i b
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#6
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#6
(Original post by gladders)
Actually most are unicameral - about two thirds, IIRC.
I was of the impression it's about half-and-half for sovereign states, with the undemocratic states (Communist hangers-on, effective absolute monarchies, religious states - basically Iran and the Vatican, TPLACs etc) being predominantly unicameral. I've yet to find an exhaustive list, but the Wikipedia listings seem to support this to some degree.
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username402722
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#7
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#7
The US system apart from being designed to reflect the states' role, also I understood to be designed to reduce government intervention.
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Rakas21
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#8
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#8
I don't think you need a second chamber per say but historical circumstances in our case required something to appease both the parliamentarians and the royals.

That being said, i'm generally of the opinion that at least half of what governments try pass is utter rubbish and not needed (i.e. the latest bout of 'diversity' legislation), therefore i quite like the Lords at least slowing stuff down.
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gladders
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#9
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#9
(Original post by L i b)
I was of the impression it's about half-and-half for sovereign states, with the undemocratic states (Communist hangers-on, effective absolute monarchies, religious states - basically Iran and the Vatican, TPLACs etc) being predominantly unicameral. I've yet to find an exhaustive list, but the Wikipedia listings seem to support this to some degree.
Good point...I don't have data on that. This is a really interesting report with tons of juicy data.
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