Tall, Grande, or Venti: Presidential Powers in the United States and Latin America

Scott Morgenstern, John Polga-Hecimovich, Sarah Shair-Rosenfield


Comparative constitutional studies rank the US president as relatively weak and most Latin American presidents as strong. However, specialized studies suggest that US presidents have great abilities to implement their agendas. We argue that presidents with weak formal powers “reinforce” their ability to impose an agenda (scope), as well as their ability to make those decisions stick (force). These reinforced powers, however, have diminishing returns as formal powers rise. As a result, the sum of presidential powers ranges from high (the US) to very high (Latin America).

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