Woodrow Wilson's Public Choice
By David Henderson
At a Liberty Fund conference I just finished up in Miami, in our book of readings was the following quote:
The best rulers are always those to whom great power is interested . . . . It is, therefore, manifestly a radical defect in our federal system that it parcels out power and confuses responsibility as it does. The main purpose of the Convention of 1787 seems to have been to accomplish this grievous mistake.
The quote is from Woodrow Wilson’s book, Congressional Government, 1885. In his book, The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, Gene Healy leads off one of his chapters with it.
Wilson must have had an interesting public choice theory. I’m guessing he was not a big fan of Lord Acton.
In a later Wilson reading, from a lecture published in 1908, Wilson wrote:
Our President must always, henceforth, be one of the great powers of the world.
It’s interesting that he thinks of the President of the United States, not the United States, as the great power.