Federalist No. 71: Does Duration in Office Provide Vigilant Autonomy in the Regulatory Process?


Anne M. Khademian is director of Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs. She writes about leadership, culture, and inclusive management, often in the context of homeland security and financial regulatory policy. She is a fellow in the National Academy of Public Administration.


Federalist No. 71 contains a strong defense of duration in office as a source of “cool and sedate reflection” by the executive. According to Alexander Hamilton’s argument, duration in office is essential for the vigilant autonomy needed to faithfully execute the laws. The author examines this argument within the context of government regulation, using the recent financial crisis and consumer safety as examples of the limits of stability and autonomy for creating vigilant autonomy.

When occasions present themselves, in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.

—Federalist No. 71