Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Fatally Flawed Theory of the Unbundled Executive

49 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2008  

Date Written: November 12, 2008


This paper responds to a working paper by University of Chicago Professors Christopher R. Berry and Jacob E. Gersen called "The Unbundled Executive" which makes a normative argument for plural co-executives over the unitary executive. The authors imply their paper is relevant to the ongoing debate in the United States over whether or not our Constitution creates a strongly unitary executive. Our paper sets out ten reasons why Berry and Gersen are wrong and why Alexander Hamilton was right on the question of the unitary executive. We argue that Berry and Gersen's paper is not relevant to the unitary executive debate and that a unitary executive is in fact preferable to a system of co-equal co-executives. We discuss rational ignorance and the cost of acquiring information, accountability, coordination, energy in the executive, preference intensity, cycling, Buchanan and Tulloch's ideas in The Calculus of Consent, the difficulty of retaining a veto with plural co-executives, and the true lessons to be learned from the experience in the States. We conclude that Berry and Gersen have raised interesting and provocative questions but that they reach the wrong conclusion. A unitary executive is preferable to co-equal co-executives in a separation of powers, federal system like our own.

Keywords: Unitary Executive, Bundled Executive, Presidential Power, Independent Agencies, Independent Counsels, Public choice, Theory

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Calabresi, Steven G. and Terrell, Nicholas K., The Fatally Flawed Theory of the Unbundled Executive (November 12, 2008). Minnesota Law Review, Forthcoming; Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 08-40. Available at SSRN:

Steven G. Calabresi (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Nicholas K. Terrell

Northwestern University School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views