The news from Europe today concerns the birth of the new British royal heir. I actually don’t think the news is that big: the only place my wife and I have heard it discussed is on television. That’s it. None of the nurses in her hospital have mentioned it. None of the cops I meet in the morning could care less. Ditto the gym, the coffeehouse, the sports bar. Zero zip nada except for Chris Matthews.
More important political news from Italy has been obscured. It seems as though the current Italian government wants to neuter the Senate.
The official position of this blog is that Senates are a bad thing. Of the ones reviewed here, the U.S. and the Philippines have the worst; Argentina’s and Brazil’s are pretty bad; Canada’s is redeemed only by its relative lack of authority. Only Mexico and Colombia have halfway-decent upper houses, and even those are still halfway-indecent.
On paper, the Italian senate is not terrible. Each region gets a number of seats proportional to its population. The coalition with the most votes (even if not a majority) in the region then gets 55% of the seats from that region. Bizarrely, the national voting age is 18, but for the Senate it is 25.
But in practice, it’s a problem. In the lower house the coalition with a plurality of votes automatically gets at least 55% of the seats. The government therefore has an automatic majority. (In most parliamentary systems the government usually gets a majority, although not always. Minority governments are generally considered a problem and usually short-lived.) In the Senate, however, the government is not guaranteed a majority. Unless a coalition can be cobbled together, you run the risk of having the government collapse. Moreover, even when a government is formed, bicameralism slows down decision-making.
So now the current Italian government is trying to neuter the upper house! I approve. How can they do that, might one ask? Well, simply, if the Senators believe that replacing the Senate with a weaker body is in the interest of their party, then they will vote for the reform.
Nonetheless, success is unlikely ... but it sure beats the way the Canadian government wants to strengthen its Senate.