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Emergencies, Executive Power, and the Uncertain Future of US Presidential Democracy

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Abstract:

This article reexamines the question of how best to restrain executive power in a political and social context that seems to favor its dramatic expansion. Modern interventionist government amidst a dynamic social environment, where the executive faces a seemingly endless series of “crises” or “emergencies,” provides a heightened scope for executive discretion. At the same time, the US‐style separation of powers, in which an independent president faces a potentially obstinate Congress, offers executives many incentives to exploit crises, real or otherwise. The works examined in this article confront, with varying degrees of success, the seemingly inexorable expansion of executive power within the US version of liberal democracy. We can only hope to deal with the many intellectual and political tasks posed by the symbiotic nexus between executive‐centered and crisis‐oriented government by confronting some tough questions about US constitutional design and the possibility of radical institutional reform. Unfortunately, even those scholars who provide plausible accounts of the US system's fragilities seem hesitant to do so.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-4469.2012.01311.x

Affiliations: Indiana University

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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