The Bias Against Presidential Restraint

24 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2019 Last revised: 27 Mar 2019

See all articles by Frank Garmon Jr.

Frank Garmon Jr.

Christopher Newport University - Department of Leadership and American Studies

Vincent Geloso

Bates College

Phillip Magness

American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: March 22, 2019

Abstract

Comparative rankings of presidential performance can be clouded with partisan biases. Here, we argue that there is another and often overlooked bias: active presidents use power and in the process they highlight their performance. It is easier to observe the use of power than the restraint of power. As such, there is a form of selection bias in expert rankings of presidents whereby we are best able to evaluate those who are more proactive rather than those who, willfully or not, exercise political restraint. In this paper, we consider how presidential rankings of greatness are affected by measures of presidential restraint (use of veto powers, divided government, changes in the size of government). We find evidence that restraint has a negative effect on presidential rankings suggesting the presence of a bias historical evaluation whereby presidents that adopt proactive and interventionist policy stances leave more visible marks that impress more favorably upon expert rankings of presidents.

Keywords: Presidential Studies, American History, American Politics, Divided Government

Suggested Citation

Garmon Jr., Frank and Geloso, Vincent and Magness, Phillip, The Bias Against Presidential Restraint (March 22, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3309604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3309604

Frank Garmon Jr.

Christopher Newport University - Department of Leadership and American Studies ( email )

VA
United States

Vincent Geloso (Contact Author)

Bates College ( email )

Department of Economics
Lewiston, ME
United States

Phillip Magness

American Institute for Economic Research ( email )

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

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