Governing By Chief Executives

Despite claims about the “hollowing-out” of the state, governments worldwide are still focused on policymaking through various bureaucratic structures. But who controls this apparatus? In the US, the common response is that the president possesses most levers of control over the administrative state. In this paper, I argue that similar reality exists in parliamentary systems in relation to prime ministers and, consequently, that governing around the world has increasingly become the task of chief executives. The paper uses the case studies of the UK, Canada, & Australia to demonstrate this claim. It documents the techniques PMs used to centralize control in their own hands and the legal and constitutional justifications advanced for them. The paper compares the case studies and seeks to draw from this discussion lessons for ongoing debates on the “presidentialization” of politics, the evolution of constitutional conventions, and the suitability of current accountability structures.