Federalist No. 71: Does Duration in Office Provide Vigilant Autonomy in the Regulatory Process?

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02473.x
Date01 December 2011
Published date01 December 2011
Anne M. Khademian is director
of Virginia Tech’s School of Public
and International Affairs. She writes
about leadership, culture, and inclusive
management, often in the context of
homeland security and f‌i nancial regulatory
policy. She is a fellow in the National
Academy of Public Administration.
E-mail: akhademi@vt.edu
Does Duration in Off‌i ce Provide Vigilant Autonomy? S135
Anne M. Khademian
Virginia Tech
Federalist No. 71 contains a strong defense of duration
in of‌f‌i ce as a source of “cool and sedate ref‌l ection” by
the executive. According to Alexander Hamilton’s
argument, duration in of‌f‌i ce is essential for the vigilant
autonomy needed to faithfully execute the laws.  e
author examines this argument
within the context of government
regulation, using the recent
f‌i nancial crisis and consumer
safety as examples of the limits
of stability and autonomy for
creating vigilant autonomy.
When occasions present themselves,
in which the interests of the
people are at variance with their
inclinations, it is the duty of the
persons whom they have appointed
to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the
temporary delusion, in order to give them time and
opportunity for more cool and sedate ref‌l ection.
—Federalist No. 71
F ederalist No. 71 emphasized duration in the
executive of‌f‌i ce as a key factor in maintain-
ing the separation of powers between the
legislative and executive branches and as a check on
the majority passions or whims of the legislature to
ensure the “stability of the system of administration.”
Alexander Hamilton noted, with trepidation, that
“[t]he representatives of the people, in a popular
assembly, seem sometimes to fancy that they are the
people themselves, and betray strong symptoms of
impatience and disgust at the least sign of opposition
from any other quarter.” Imbued with a powerfully
close connection to the public, Hamilton warned
that the legislative branch could readily dominate
and disturb the administration of government
without the counterbalance of executive duration in
of‌f‌i ce that would “inspir[e] the desired f‌i rmness and
independence of the magistrate.” An independent
executive, willing to “risk more,” has at times “saved
the people from very fatal consequences of their
own mistakes and has procured lasting monuments
of their gratitude to the men who had courage and
magnanimity enough to serve them at the peril of
their displeasure.”
is essay challenges the suf-
f‌i ciency of executive duration
in of‌f‌i ce and the consequent
stability of administration for
fostering an energetic public
service—specif‌i cally, a public
service that can provide safety
through regulation. While
Hamilton emphasized the
dangers of legislative attention
and majority passion on the
administration of government,
the missing text in Federalist No. 71 is threefold:
(1) that which underscores the dangers of hardened
administrative practices that prevent the innovation
at times needed for the robust accomplishment of
safety in the regulatory process; (2) the vital role of
the legislature in providing the occasional stimulus
for energetic public service and the importance of
legislative support for administrative ef‌f orts; and
(3) the administrative duty of public engagement,
even when “the interests of the people are at variance
with their inclinations.”  e missing text fosters the
institutional equivalent of “vigilant autonomy,” or a
public service rigorous in the exercise of its authority
and energetic in engaging the public and its repre-
sentatives to draw on experience and practice in the
process of regulatory oversight.  e missing text,
in short, pushes beyond the normative debate over
executive versus legislative prominence in the admin-
istration of government (Finer 1941; Friedrich 1940)
and refocuses the empirical debate from evidence of
dominance (McCubbins and Schwartz 1984; Wein-
gast 1984; Wood and Waterman 1994) to the admin-
istrative role in fostering a public service, autono-
mous in the conf‌i dence of its expertise, but vigilant
in the continuous engagement of the legislature and
Federalist No. 71: Does Duration in Of‌f‌i ce Provide Vigilant
Autonomy in the Regulatory Process?
is essay challenges the
suf‌f‌i ciency of executive duration
in of‌f‌i ce and the consequent
stability of administration for
fostering an energetic public
service—specif‌i cally, a public
service that can provide safety
through regulation.

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