Kelsen on the Unitary Executive | Harper's Magazine

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Kelsen on the Unitary Executive


It is completely absurd to suggest that a despotic government has no concept of the rule of law, but rests rather on the caprice of the ruler . . . The despotically governed state often does reflect a sort of concept of rule of law as a basis of its state order. Denying it the character of a legal order is thus a cheapening of the analysis, a sort of natural-law naïveté or exaggeration . . . What some may see as arbitrariness, others will see as the lawful authority of the autocrat, his right to seize all decision-making to himself, to dictate to the subordinated organs without limitation how they are to behave and dispose of matters, and to stipulate to them or to modify the norms they are to apply, with general or specific levels of applicability. But such a state is also a sort of state of law, even if severely disadvantaged . . . The drive in a modern rule-of-law state for a dictatorship provides evidence of this.

Hans Kelsen, Allgemeine Staatslehre pp. 335-36 (1925) (S.H. transl.) (Hans Kelsen describes the theory of the Unitary Executive, and locates it properly in the bossom of despotic state theory, and as a step on the way to dictatorship).

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