The US political system has been influenced by two competing and partially contradictory schools of thought. What are they, and which institutions best reflect each?
The US is shaped by liberalism and republicanism. Liberalism is the belief that government's greatest purpose is to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens. This philosophy includes a deep suspicion of mass politics, due to the fear that majorities will run roughshod over the rights of others. As such, the US political system is designed to create a slow and deliberate policy process where small groups have many opportunities to block legislation and where power is divided between separate institutions. The division of executive and legislative power as well as the bicameral legislative structure are examples of this. Second, the US was shaped by republican ideas that were much more tolerant and accepting of mas involvement in politics. The US House of Representatives is the clearest example of republican influence. The short tenures of its members, the fact that they are allocated according to population, and their status as the only part of the three branches to be directly elected under the original Constitutional rules all are designed to create a highly responsive and democratic chamber.
Countries with high levels of economic development are also much more likely to be democracies. Therefore, we conclude that economic development causes democracy. What are the independent and dependent variables here? What kind of statistical methods might be useful for testing this hypothesis? Provide some alternative explanations for this reasoning.
Economic development is the IV; democracy is the DV. The model would depend on how we conceptualize and measure the DV. If democracy is treated as binary (a state is democratic or not), then either a logit or probit MLE approach would be best. If democracy is treated as a quantitative variable (for example, a 0-10 scale where 0 is not democratic at all, and 10 is totally democratic), then a more typical ordinary least squares regression would be more appropriate. Competing explanations include that democracy is actually the IV here; that democratic countries produce better policy and thus perform better economically. There is a possibility that both democracy and economic development impact each other reciprocally. In this case, some sort of instrumental variable endogenous model (such as two-stage least squares) would be necessary. It is also possible that some other variable causes both democracy and development, meaning the relationship between the two is spurious. For example, former British colonies are, due to the institutional legacies of British colonization, more likely to be developed and democratic. Including this possible confounding variable would be necessary to accurately gauge the impact of democracy on development (and vice-versa).
Unlike in the United States, political regimes in Europe often lack separation of powers (e.g. separately elected executives) and checks and balances (e.g. executive veto power). What are the advantages and disadvantages of European state structure when compared to that of the US?
European political systems are generally more responsive to the opinions of the citizenry, and thus arguably more democratic. The lack of "veto players" in European systems mean that governments can enact the agendas on which they run for election with little interference, thus realizing the expressed will of the electorate. These systems are also more able to adapt to shifting circumstances. The US system was designed to be slow and deliberative, to prevent momentary passions from translating into bad policy choices. Of particular concern is the possibility that streamlined systems like those of Europe provide insufficient protections for the rights and interests of minorities; should 51 percent of the people have a free hand to enact any policies they like, no matter how injurious they may be to the other 49 percent? Recent crises over immigration and the rise of anti-immigrant parties in Europe underscore the risks of systems which do not place many limits on political majorities.