Binding the Executive (by Law or by Politics)

64 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2012

See all articles by Aziz Z. Huq

Aziz Z. Huq

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: August 23, 2012


What in practice limits executive branch discretion? In The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule reject “liberal legalism,” which situates constraint in the power of law and legally constituted institutions such as Congress and the courts. In their view, it is political, not legal, mechanisms that cabin executive discretion on the ground. This review essay examines critically both parts of that positive thesis — the weakness of law and the force of politics — as a vehicle for reconsidering the operation of presidential discretion. The essay identifies a more subtle but fragile political economy of constraint: Legal and political mechanisms are not substitutes, but complementary elements of an increasingly threadbare dynamic of executive restraint. This reformulation also has troubling normative implications for evaluations of the current scope of executive discretion.

Suggested Citation

Huq, Aziz Z., Binding the Executive (by Law or by Politics) (August 23, 2012). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 79, No. 2, 2012, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 400, Available at SSRN:

Aziz Z. Huq (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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United States

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