The Democracy Series: A Conversation with Authors Alexander Bolton and Sharece Thrower
Tue. Dec 14, 2021
6:00 — 7:00 PM CST
Join the University of Chicago Center for Effective Government, the Chicago Center on Democracy, and Seminary Co-op Bookstores for the third installment of ‘The Democracy Series,’ a joint initiative of public events featuring dialogue between book authors and experts on issues related to the state of democracy in the U.S. and abroad.
Alexander Bolton, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Emory University, and Sharece Thrower, Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, will discuss their book Checks in the Balance: Legislative Capacity and the Dynamics of Executive Power. The event will feature:
Alexander Bolton | Author, Checks in the Balance: Legislative Capacity and the Dynamics of Executive Power
Sharece Thrower | Author, Checks in the Balance: Legislative Capacity and the Dynamics of Executive Power
Sadia Sindhu (Remarks) | Executive Director, University of Chicago Center for Effective Government
Will Howell (Moderator) | Director, University of Chicago Center for Effective Government
About the book:
The specter of unbridled executive power looms large in the American political imagination. Are checks and balances enough to constrain ambitious executives? Checks in the Balance presents a new theory of separation of powers that brings legislative capacity to the fore, explaining why Congress and state legislatures must possess both the opportunities and the means to constrain presidents and governors—and why, without these tools, executive power will prevail.
Alexander Bolton and Sharece Thrower reveal how legislative capacity—which they conceive of as the combination of a legislature’s resources and policymaking powers—is the key to preventing the accumulation of power in the hands of an encroaching executive. They show how low-capacity legislatures face difficulties checking the executive through mechanisms such as discretion and oversight, and how presidents and governors unilaterally bypass such legislative adversaries to impose their will. When legislative capacity is high, however, the legislative branch can effectively stifle executives. Bolton and Thrower draw on a wealth of historical evidence on congressional capacity, oversight, discretion, and presidential unilateralism. They also examine thousands of gubernatorial executive orders, demonstrating how varying capacity in the states affects governors’ power.
Checks in the Balance affirms the centrality of legislatures in tempering executive power—and sheds vital new light on how and why they fail.
Watch the full recording: