Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 13 > Issue 2

The Politician's Province

William G. Howell, University of Chicago, USA, whowell@uchicago.edu , Stephane Wolton, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK, S.Wolton@lse.ac.uk
Suggested Citation
William G. Howell and Stephane Wolton (2018), "The Politician's Province", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 13: No. 2, pp 119-146. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00017104

Publication Date: 23 May 2018
© 2018 W. G. Howell and S. Wolton
Presidential Politics,  Rule of law,  Lawmaking,  Intergovernmental relations
Political authorityelectoral incentivesunilateral action


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In this article:
Existing Literatures 
Authority Granted and Authority Manufactured 
The Model 
A Proofs for the baseline model 


Politicians, especially executives, regularly seek to project their influence into new policy domains. In some instances, they do so only after having secured the requisite statutory authority; in others, they intervene without prior authorization, hoping that their actions henceforth serve as precedent for future policy involvement. To investigate the conditions under which politicians pursue one strategy versus another, we study a stylized model of authority acquisition that recognizes the electoral pressures under which executives operate. We show that politicians seek authority that is both more secure and broader in scope as the public support for their policy position increases even if — indeed, precisely because — their opponent stands to benefit from this authority if elected to office. Far from tying their opponents' hands, as a number of literatures suggests, incumbents have electoral incentives to liberate them.