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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Homeland Security vs. the Madisonian Impulse: State Building and Anti-Statism after September 11


The shock of war is closely associated with the growth of the state, in the United States and elsewhere. Yet each proposal to significantly consolidate or expand executive power in the United States since September 11th has been resisted, refined, or even rejected outright. We argue that this outcome—theoretically unexpected and contrary to conventional wisdom—is the result of enduring aspects of America’s domestic political structure: the division of power at the federal level between three co-equal and overlapping branches, the relative ease with which non-governmental interest groups circumscribe the state’s capacity to regulate or monitor private transactions, and the intensity with which guardians of the state’s purposely fragmented institutions guard their organizational turf. These persistent aspects of US political life, designed by the nation’s founders to impede the concentration of state power, have substantially shaped the means by which contemporary guardians of the American state pursue “homeland security.”

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