David Davenport on How Public Policy Became War

interview with David Davenport
Monday, June 24, 2019
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Recorded: Recorded on May 15, 2019

David Davenport, Hoover fellow and coauthor of How Public Policy Became War, analyzes how presidents have too readily declared war (on terror, drugs, poverty, you name it) and called the nation into crisis, partly to tackle the problem and partly to increase their own power.

Davenport explains how policy options have been left behind because the war metaphor reduces the constraints and expands the power of what a president can do. Davenport discusses how Franklin Roosevelt used the declaration of war to expand government and shift the balance of power in the United States in a new direction, away from Congress and the states and toward a strong executive branch. Davenport notes that Roosevelt exchanged the founders’ vision of deliberation and moderation in the federal government for war and action.

Davenport explains how, through the course of time, Congress has lost its ability to deliberate, negotiate, compromise, and draft bills, which results in giving more power to the executive branch. Davenport says that members of Congress are sent to Washington to represent us, and they need to be statesmen rather than party loyalists and step up to their proper constitutional role.

Davenport also discusses executive orders that permit the president to issue an order on his own without any congressional legislation. He talks about the number of executive orders that have been used by presidents throughout history and how they have impacted the nation.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers.

Finally, Davenport says he believes that President Trump is on the right track when he takes measures to limit the administrative state.