This research seeks to discover why and how presidents choose their administrative strategies. The hypothesis advanced argues the political beliefs of a president make some administrative strategies more appealing than others.
Chapter One offers a critique of current explanations of presidential behavior, including the "classic" models of the "rational decider" and "personality" models of decision making. A third model, that of "political belief," is described and discussed. The chapter concludes by arguing this belief model can escape the methodological problems plaguing the other "classic" approaches to explaining behavior.
Chapters Two, Three and Four test this model by examining the reorganizational and budget decisions of the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations. Chapter Two demonstrates that Richard Nixon's belief in the individual's power to control one's life best explains his decisions to decentralize government through reorganization and revenue sharing. Chapter Three concludes that Jimmy Carter's belief in a progressive agenda to democratize government best explains his decision to reorganize government from the "bottom-up" and through the use of zero base budgeting. Chapter Four finds that Ronald Reagan's decisions to reorganize the executive branch from "within" and to alter the budget process are best explained by his belief in government as an agent for social change, but only in specific areas of activity.
Chapter Five concludes the research by briefly examining the Bush presidency, and concludes that Bush, like Jimmy Carter, is a president more concerned with "process" than "policy." Each "classic" methodology is demonstrated to be flawed, and the "belief" model is shown to best explain the behavior of each president. For that reason, the project closes, political science under-appreciates the role of political belief in decision making.