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Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics Paperback – April 18, 2011
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Wilson wrote this book in the mid-1880s, when the United States was inward-looking, building its railroads and fulfilling its "Manifest Destiny"--when foreign policy was a secondary concern. This made the legislative branch the more important and more powerful branch of the federal government. But it is more than that: because there is too much for the legislature (especially the House) as a whole to do, they split up into committees, and the chairs of these committees dictate what gets to the floor of the House and what doesn't. Thus individual members can be more or less impotent. The chairs of the committees also grant speaking time to some of the members who wish to speak on an issue they bring to the floor, but there is much less of this time available than anyone would like, so policy debate is mostly limited. This has the effect of minimizing the impact and importance of any single member of the House, such that they fail to get the kind of media attention and celebrity that a comparable figure in another government might get; with the ultimate result that Americans are almost completely disinterested in the inner workings of the House.Read more ›
The prose is about as stirring as one of Wilson's speeches, that is to say: "not so much." As an inexpensive recap of some of Wilson's political thought (or lack thereof), and as a primary source of his writings and utterances, "A Study In American Politics" is a handy reference guide. Bear in mind, however, that Wilson does not set out to make an objective study of congressional government but to sway you toward his perception of one. The two are not the same.
Wilson's principal complaints with the shortcomings of American government can be summed up with one word: disjoint. He states that there is no structure in the Congress that can be described as "leadership" in British sense, meaning that even the nominal "leaders" of the parties cannot claim to speak for the rank-and-file members, who may act on their own initiative, through committees, in the process of drafting legislation (instead of having legislation crafted by a central administration and having members vote or reject it). The result is that there is no cohesive policy, as the various committees draft legislation within their own domains that in the end can be contradictory or mutually abrasive.
Wilson also states that there is disjoint between the executive and Congress, largely due to the executive being independent from the legislature.Read more ›
PATRICK McGRATH The Campaign for Responsible Government Stony Point, NY
Most Recent Customer Reviews
CHANGED MY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS OF WILSON. HE IS VERY TRUTHFUL, SEEMINGLY CORRECT CONCERNING THE WORKINGS OF THE GOVERNMENT MACHINE KNOWN AS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Thoroughly covers the duties of Congress and the Presidency, especially in regards to treaties and the financial function of the House in regards to the National Budget. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Phillip Manson
Insightful look at the growth of government from the perspective of the end of the 19th century by a US president and college professor.Published 20 months ago by Martin E. McDonald
In-depth, organized, and straight forward. I used it for a summer project for my AP Government class last year. It cut the amount of time I would have had to spend on it in half.Published on May 18, 2014 by John Cahill
Interesting here is how one of our better presidents (Woodrow Wilson, before the stroke and his presidency) was less-than-enamored of a literal interpretation of the U.S. Read morePublished on October 14, 2013 by R. C. Fleet
Wilson summarizes and analyzes the American political system in the late nineteenth century and compares the functions of its institutions with the British and French equivalents. Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by Kyle
Loved the insight that President Wilson gives in this book. Loved the outline and framework in which the information was given. Overall, great book. Read morePublished on March 18, 2013 by Austin Noyes
Provides great insight into the reasons why the rules adopted by Congress over time are not what the founders had in mind. Read morePublished on March 8, 2013 by William Fredericks