Edited by Jac C. Heckelman and Nicholas R. Miller
Chapter 11: A unified spatial model of American political institutions
Even before the US Constitution was officially ratified, The Federalist Papers (Hamilton et al. 1961) that urged its adoption were full of references to the problems of policy stability and policy responsiveness in democratic political systems. And the country’s subsequent history has seen recurring debates, involving both criticism and praise, concerning the difficulties that the Constitution presents for policy change. But despite this long history of disputes over what has been variously called ‘gridlock’, ‘deadlock’ and ‘stalemate’, only in the last three or four decades have social scientists been able to develop, albeit piece by piece and without any central design or direction, what is in effect a unified spatial model of American political institutions. In this chapter I will describe the characteristics of this model and discuss its implications for policy stability and policy responsiveness in this system of constitutional government that is characterized by ‘separated institutions sharing powers’ (Neustadt 1960, p. 42).
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