Legislatures are an omnipresent component of modern democracy. Ostrow's comparative institutional design confirms the presumption of many political scientists that parties are essential for legislative consensus building. However, it also reveals that parties may have paradoxical effects on a legislature's performance. In following the budget process in Russia and Estonia, Ostrow explores the consequences that different institutional designs have had on post-Soviet legislatures. He has found that how parties are included may determine how capable a legislature is at managing political conflict, both internally and with the executive branch of the government. The author was present at many of the committee hearings and legislative sessions he describes, and his firsthand observations and interviews with committee members enhance his analysis.