Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ingber on executive power creep

Friends wondering why executive power continued to expand under Obama might appreciate this excellent paper from Rebecca Ingber. One reason is that career civil servants who staff executive agencies and believe in their missions are interested in expanding their power over time.

The paper described another factor that I wouldn't have guessed. Lawyers tend to orally tell executive agency people "No, we can't do this." They write memos that might be useful in later in legal proceedings defending the decision to say "Yes, we can do this." So when the next administration shows up, it inherits a lot of "Yes, we can do this" memos and nothing to the contrary.

A bit of good news Rebecca mentioned when I emailed her is that some dangerous agenda items of the Trump Administration are about curtailing executive power rather than increasing it. Even if Trump tries to stop the State Department from doing its diplomatic thing or stop the EPA from doing its environmental thing, the career civil servants will keep plugging along. Things might be more diplomatic and environmental than the Trump Administration wants.