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Center and Periphery in Antebellum Federal Administration: The Multiple Faces of Popular Control, 12 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 331 (2010)


Steven Calabresi and Christopher Yoo make a basic claim in their new book: all Presidents are essentially Unitarians.1 In one way or another, they all seek to have exclusive control over the executive power and to direct the activities of those in the executive branch. The evidence for this claim is a broad survey of governmental practice from the earliest days of the Republic to the twenty-first century. At this level, the Calabresi-Yoo claim is not terribly controversial. A somewhat stronger claim, however, occasionally creeps into their discussion. That stronger claim might be stated as an argument for the normative force of practice. Because Presidents have consistently acted as if they were the exclusive seat of executive power, that practice should govern our constitutional understandings of the allocation of power within the federal government.

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