The Fourth Branch

Reconstructing the Administrative State for the Commercial Republic

Brian J. Cook

In The Fourth Branch: Reconstructing the Administrative State for the Commercial Republic Brian J. Cook confronts head-on the accumulating derangements in the American constitutional system and how the administrative state has contributed to the problems, how it has been a key force in addressing the troubles, and how it can be reformed to serve the system better. The Fourth Branch is anchored in a powerful theory of regime design that guides a freshly comprehensive account of the historical development of successive political economies and administrative states in the United States and provides the normative grounding for more far-reaching constitutional change. Cook calls for a decisive, pattern-breaking response in the form of a constitutional redesign to accommodate a fourth branch, an administrative branch. The Fourth Branch shows that the creation of a fourth administrative branch is consistent with the history and traditions of American constitutionalism. Far more than that, however, the addition of a fourth branch could enhance American constitutionalism by making the separation of powers work better, increasing the likelihood that deliberative lawmaking will occur, strengthening civic capacity and public engagement in governance, and improving both accountability and coordination in the administrative state.

By stressing that the administrative state in its current form is both biased toward business and seriously undermined by subordination to the three constitutional branches, Cook contends that neither abandoning the administrative state nor more deeply constitutionalizing or democratizing it within the existing constitutional structure is sufficient to fully legitimate and capitalize on administrative power to serve the public interest. Rather, Cook argues that it is imperative to confront the reality that a fundamental reordering of constitutional arrangements is necessary if the American commercial republic is to recover from its growing disorder and progress further toward its aspirations of liberal justice and limited but vigorous self-rule.

The Fourth Branch is a bold intervention into current debates about the legitimacy of the American administrative state. Cook invites us to think beyond the constraints of eighteenth-century political theory and finally place government agencies on firm republican footing. The argument is both strikingly original in its analysis and deeply grounded in research in public administration, political science, and public law.”

—Blake Emerson, assistant professor of law, UCLA School of Law, and author of The Public’s Law: Origins and Architecture of Progressive Democracy

“This unflinching call for a formal reordering of constitutional authority seeks to reclaim the value of an administrative arm with integrity of its own to a commercial republic. Acutely attuned to the degraded state in which we find administration today, Cook jolts our faith in the adaptability of the three-branch design of American government and dispels the illusion that we can accommodate administrative authority by simply jerry-rigging the Constitution of the framers.”

—Stephen Skowronek, Pelatiah Perit Professor of Political Science, Yale University

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About the Author

Brian J. Cook is professor emeritus of public administration and policy, Virginia Tech. He is the author of numerous books, including Democracy and Administration: Woodrow Wilson’s Ideas and the Challenges of Public Management and Bureaucracy and Self-Government: Reconsidering the Role of Public Administration in American Politics, second edition.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series