Showing o: Promise and peril in unilateral policymaking

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Presidents have substantial unilateral policymaking powers in the United States despite constitutional provisions for checks and balances. I study how electoral concerns encourage o ceholders to exercise these powers, using a formal model in which unilateral policymaking skill varies across o ceholders and is unknown to voters. Undesirable unilateral action is unavoidable in equilibrium under broad conditions. This perverse behavior occurs when the incumbent acts unilaterally to show o policymaking skill even though unilateral action is inferior policy. Showing o is driven by electoral motivations and occurs because unilateral action is important for re-election. I also characterize conditions under which the incumbent acts unilaterally in equilibrium if and only if it improves voter welfare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-267
Number of pages27
JournalCritical Finance Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance


  • Electoral accountability
  • Political economy
  • Presidency
  • Unilateral policymaking


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