Liberal democracies constrain power by imposing legal constraints on the exercise of power. Among developed democracies, the United States has one of the most extensive sets of checks and balances. When combined with the country's current polarization, this institutional setup often leads to what I have termed "vetocracy," in which there are so many veto points that even the simplest forms of collective action become impossible.
The US and other liberal democracies will face major challenges in the coming years in making difficult and costly decisions to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Is there a way of reducing vetocracy without undermining basic principles of liberal democracy? We do not want to imitate China, which stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as a consolidated authoritarian state with virtually no checks on the power of the Communist Party. These lectures will look at institutional measures that democracies might adopt to improve decision-making and implementation.