Executive Absolutism: A Model

59 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2019 Last revised: 20 Jan 2020

See all articles by William G. Howell

William G. Howell

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science

Kenneth Shepsle

Harvard University - Department of Government

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: August 20, 2019

Abstract

Separated powers cannot permanently constrain individual ambitions. Concerns about a government's ability to respond to contemporary and future crises, we show, invariably compromise the principled commitments one branch of government has in limiting the authority of another. We study a dynamic model in which a politician (most commonly an executive) makes authority claims that are subject to a hard constraint (administered, typically, by a court). At any period, the court is free to rule against the executive and thereby permanently halt her efforts to acquire more power. Because it appropriately cares about the executive's ability to address real-world disruptions, however, the court is always willing to affirm more authority. Neither robust electoral competition nor alternative characterizations of judicial rule fundamentally alters this state of affairs. The result, we show, is a persistent accumulation of executive authority.

Keywords: Authority, Executive Growh, Judicial Decision, Separation of Power, Federalist

JEL Classification: D70, D72, D02, C73, H11, K39

Suggested Citation

Howell, William G. and Shepsle, Kenneth and Wolton, Stephane, Executive Absolutism: A Model (August 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3440604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3440604

William G. Howell

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Kenneth Shepsle

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 495-4928 (Phone)
(617) 496-5149 (Fax)

Stephane Wolton (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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