Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch

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Bitter Harvest identifies the principles governing Franklin Roosevelt's development and use of a presidential staff system and offers a theory explaining why those principles proved so effective. Dickinson argues that presidents institutionalize staff to acquire the information and expertise necessary to better predict the likely impact their specific bargaining choices will have on the end results they desire. Once institutionalized, however, presidential staff must be managed. Roosevelt's use of competitive administrative techniques minimized his staff management costs, while his institutionalization of nonpartisan staff agencies provided him with needed information. Matthew Dickinson's research suggests that FDR's principles could be used today to manage the White House staff-dominated institutional presidency upon which most of his presidential successors have relied.