Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Congress, the Presidency and World Order: The Interplay of International and Domestic Politics

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Congress, the Presidency and World Order: The Interplay of International and Domestic Politics

Article excerpt

A disturbing focus exists in efforts to gauge the significance of the many changes that are taking place in the post-cold war world. The focus of attention has been largely devoted to investigations of how these changes will effect the basic nature of international relations and the conduct of foreign policy. Will the structure of the international community be bipolar, multipolar, unipolar and hegemonic, multilevel interdependent or comprised of three economic blocs?(1) Will there be a balance of powers or a concert of powers?(2) Will the United States face predominately economic or military threats in this "new world"? Missing in this analysis is an investigation of how these changes may affect the nature of domestic politics and institutional arrangements such as executive/legislative relations.

This blind-spot is not new. It harks back to the long employed distinction between domestic and international politics. In large part, due to the work of the interdependence theorists, the artificiality of this domestic-world politics dichotomy is now well recognized.(3) Moreover, some observers have recognized that interdependent trends and factors linking foreign to domestic politics have always existed.(4) Indeed, the upheavals inside the separate European nations during the period of 1848 contributed, in part, to the end of the Concert of Europe thus establishing that domestic factors can play a crucial role in changing international paradigms.(5)

What is still missing is a balanced understanding of the nature of domestic/institutional-international political linkages: a concern for international system variables as crucial factors influencing the character of domestic political processes and institutions. Focusing primarily on regime type and coalition patterns, Peter Gourevitch points out such linkages do exist.(6) He notes that with varying degrees of rigor and plausibility many strands of writing within the fields of international political economy and international systems theory support the conclusion that "political development is shaped by war and trade." Shifting the level of analysis downward to political parties, social groups, and organizations, Miles Kahler makes a similar point in his study of the domestic consequences of decolonialization on France and Great Britain.(7)

An appreciation of the potential magnitude of domestic political change confronting the United States today as it enters into the post-cold war era only can be developed by analyzing past trends in international and domestic politics. What was the distinguishing characteristics of other periods of change in the international arena? Were there any consequent domestic changes and what did they portend for the nation?

Of particular relevance for understanding the condition today are two recent periods of international transformation. In each period profound changes in the international environment have inevitably led to profound alterations in domestic institutional arrangements and polities. For both periods the linkage between the international events and the domestic reforms came in the form of budget politics. Both periods had profound effects upon the nature of executive/legislative relations. The first period encompasses the massive transformations in domestic and international politics at the turn of the century. It includes the Progressive Reform Movement domestically and the shift from colonialism towards mass democracy internationally. It culminates in a new executive legislative relationship as exemplified by the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. The second period of profound international change was initiated by the Vietnam War with its effects manifested in the Budget Impoundment and Control Act of 1974 and it continues today.

Our purpose is to first illustrate that grand periods of international change also coincide with profound domestic reforms, each heavily influencing the other. Budget reforms link international and domestic politics and transform domestic institutional balances of power and policy environments. …

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