The American presidency has accumulated an unprecedented set of institutional advantages in the conduct of foreign policy. Unlike on the domestic side where presidents face an activist and troublesome Congress, the Constitution, the bureaucratic and legal legacies of previous wars, the overreaction to 9/11, and years of assiduous executive branch privilege-claiming now afford the White House great latitude to run foreign policy without interference from Congress.
But one of the most tragic reasons for this situation stems from the abject failure of the marketplace of ideas to check the growth in executive power. In theory, the marketplace of ideas consists of free-wheeling debate over the ends and means of foreign policy and critical analysis of the ongoing execution of foreign policy that help the public and its political leaders to distinguish good ideas from poor ones. Philosophers since Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill have championed this dynamic. The Founding Fathers enshrined its logic in the First Amendment. Recent scholarship argues that the marketplace of ideas is central to the democratic peace and the ability of democracies to conduct smarter foreign policies than other nations.
In practice, however, today’s marketplace of ideas falls terribly short of this ideal.
Read the whole thing at the Cato blog here.