Executive Power in American Institutional Development

Posted: 12 Jul 2004

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Dan Carpenter

Harvard University


Many scholars of American politics implicitly or explicitly assume a model of congressional dominance. This standard narrative has been made explicit in principal-agent models of interbranch relations, in which the executive serves as a mere agent of the legislative principal. There are important limitations to the applicability of principal-agent models in the political context, and the assumption of congressional dominance obscures many important features of American politics. Over the course of American history, institutional development has often been driven by either autonomous executive action or conflicts between Congress and the executive. The argument is illustrated by reference to three cases: the growth of the federal extension service, the rise of national security intelligence operations, and the growth of the presidential impoundment power.

Note: This is a description of the paper and not the actual abstract.

Keywords: presidency, congress, delegation, presidential power, separation of powers

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E. and Carpenter, Dan, Executive Power in American Institutional Development. Perspectives in Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 495-513, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=557881

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~kewhitt/

Dan Carpenter

Harvard University ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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