The concept of “divided government” is more complicated than scholars have allowed. In the USA, truly unified government, where the president enjoys a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate as well as a majority in the House, is rare. In France, truly unified government has been more common, but divided government has also occurred several times. Democratic governance requires that parties address important issues and they do so regardless of the patterns of institutional control. Nevertheless, policy changes or important laws are affected by the higher level of institutional friction associated with divided government. Looking at both the USA and France, we find that periods of unified government show higher levels of production of important laws in the USA, but we find no difference for overall legislative productivity.