The Case for Gridlock

The Case for Gridlock : Democracy, Organized Power, and the Legal Foundations of American Government

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The Case for Gridlock explains how, in an effort to make the system more egalitarian and forward thinking, American Progressivism led to the creation of government institutions that increased the political advantages of superior organization, thereby enabling "special interests" to dominate the policy process. The book makes the case for the Constitutional Principle, showing how gridlock-prone institutions lead to better representation of broader more

Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 150 x 226 x 20mm | 362.87g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739142380
  • 9780739142387

Review quote

Institutional complexity and slow decision making are rarely praised in academic accounts of the American political system, but Marcus Ethridge's provocative new book The Case for Gridlock makes a strong argument that they ought to be. Clearly written and meticulously researched, The Case for Gridlock convincingly challenges the Progressives' assumption that organized interests are best controlled and public purposes are most likely to be accomplished when Congress is bypassed and administrative agencies set public policies. Adherence to the 'constitutional principle' embedded in the Framers' system of separation of powers, Ethridge observes, changes the way that organized interests shape their political objectives and makes it more likely that the public interest will be advanced. Challenging fundamental assumptions on both the right and left, this book will inform and energize debates about why organized interests have come to exercise such control over the policy process and how we might best remedy the mischief of faction. -- Alan Gibson, CSU, Chico Professor Ethridge's The Case for Gridlock has several virtues. He uses the history of ideas to good effect, especially regarding the institutional implications of Progressivism. He usefully returns our attention to the pitfalls of delegation with a concern for the constitutional context. A reader interested in politics will find here a clear and intriguing account of some of our current troubles. The scholar of American political development will be rewarded with insights and perspectives often missing in the field. My only regret is that this work was not available when I wrote on Progressivism. The Case for Gridlock would have provided me with a sure guide to how the past informs current politics. -- John Samples, Cato Institute In the interest of limiting the power of government, James Madison and the framers of the US Constitution created a system of political institutions notoriously resistant to policy change; it tends toward gridlock. Reformers chafe at the many 'veto points' available to organized interests to stifle policy change. This important, well-researched, provocative book demonstrates how progressive reformers sought to shift the power to shape policy from the legislative branch to the executive bureaucracy. Ethridge (Univ. of Wisconsin) argues that reformers viewed this as a strategy for limiting the power of 'special interests' to stymie policy change; beyond the reach of interest groups, technocrats in the bureaucracy would promote policy changes consistent with the reformers goals. What the reformers failed to appreciate was, first, the ability of interest groups to infiltrate the bureaucracy and promote their interests, often in ways diametrically opposed to the reformers' intentions, and, second, the capacity of Congress to overcome the influence of groups and generate policy change. He argues that a return to the 'constitutional principle' of gridlock, in which special interests must compete in a legislative forum, presents the best means of promoting the public interest. Recommended. CHOICE, November 2010 Ethridge offers a good analysis of an overlooked topic...and its importance for public policy... Persuasively challenge what most people believe about politics...deserves readers concerned about the origins and consequences of regulation in the United States. Regulation, Fall 2010show more

About Marcus E. Ethridge

Marcus E. Ethridge is professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at University of Wisconsin, more

Table of contents

Chapter 1 1 Introduction Chapter 2 2 Progressivism, Organized Interests, and the Politics of Gridlock Chapter 3 3 The Constitutional Principle and Institutional Design Chapter 4 4 Incomplete Conquest: Progressivism and The Legal Foundations of the Administrative State Through the 1960s Chapter 5 5 The Collapse of Progressive Institutional Design Chapter 6 6 Constitutionalism Resurgent: The End ofLiberalism? Chapter 7 Table of Casesshow more