Our dubious Constitution (continued)
isomin at gmu.edu
isomin at gmu.edu
Fri Mar 17 13:07:37 PST 2006
One further point on the costs and benefits of replacing the executive in midterm:
A key question is: Are there any generalizable reasons to expect that executives replaced in midterm will be replaced by mediocrities such as Macmillan and Major (and possibly President Ford).
Unfortunately, I think the answer here is "yes." An executive is only likely to be removed in midterm after a bruising and divisive political battle, usually including internal divisions within his own party. After such a battle, political elites within the party and outside it are likely to settle on a lowest common denominater leader as a replacement. The new leader's principal virtue is likely to be the fact that no one strongly opposes him. Obviously, anyone who is forceful and highly competent is unlikely to fall in this category.
Thus, there is good reason to expect that a leader removed in midterm will be replaced by a mediocrity. That doesn't mean that we should never engage in such replacement (in my view, getting rid of Nixon was worth it, for example). But it does suggest that replacement should be difficult enough to ensure that it will only occur in cases where the incumbent is so bad that even a dubiously competent mediocrity will be better.
Assistant Professor of Law
George Mason University School of Law
3301 Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA 22201
e-mail: isomin at gmu.edu
----- Original Message -----
From: Sanford Levinson <SLevinson at law.utexas.edu>
Date: Friday, March 17, 2006 3:18 pm
Subject: RE: Our dubious Constitution (continued)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bob Sheridan [mailto:bobsheridan at earthlink.net]
> Sent: Friday, March 17, 2006 1:15 PM
> To: Sanford Levinson
> Cc: Miguel Schor; isomin at gmu.edu; DavidEBernstein at aol.com;
> CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu; Mark.Scarberry at pepperdine.edu
> Subject: Re: Our dubious Constitution (continued)
> Bob Sheridan writes;
> There's a difference between a corporation, or a baseball team, or a
> treating physician, or an airline, and the presidency of the U.S.
> All of the former are under the much more immediately available
> controlof their respective boards, employers, shareholders, etc.,
> and can be
> readily hauled into court for rules violations.
> It is much more difficult and disruptive to the country to impeach or
> otherwise replace a president.
> No doubt this is correct, but the question is why do countries around
> the world successfully replace prime ministers (again, I mention
> Thatcher's being bounced and replaced by Major or Anthony Eden being
> fired after Suez, replaced by Macmillan, to take only two English
> examples)? What I was suggesting with my questions was a version
> of the
> famous Learned Hand formula in which we multiply the costs of an
> incompetent president (which seem to me higher than the costs of an
> error-prone surgeon etc.) by the costs of mid-term replacement (which
> would admittedly be high). But why do we systematically underestimate
> the costs of being governed for several years by an incompetent?
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