executive, one who carries out the will or plan of another person or of a group. In government, the term refers not only to the chief administrative officer but to all others who execute the laws and to them as a group. In modern government, the executive also formulates and carries out governmental policies, directs relations with foreign governments, commands the armed forces, approves or disapproves legislative acts, recommends legislation, and in some countries summons and opens the legislature, appoints and dismisses some executive officials, and pardons any but those impeached. Usually the executive may also issue ordinances, often supplementing legislative acts, and may interpret statutes for the guidance of officials. These broad powers depend upon the theory that the state has a juristic personality whose will the government, in its various departments, must perform. The separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government was not only modified in the U.S. Constitution but has been further modified in practice, for the President performs many judicial and legislative functions. State and municipal executives have likewise assumed larger powers. Distinction is sometimes made between executives who decide policies and the administration that carries out the laws and executive orders. In business, executives are those who manage, decide policies, and control the business.
See C. A. Beard, American Government and Politics (1931); H. J. Laski, The American Presidency (1940, repr. 1972); J. M. Burns, Presidential Government (1965); D. B. James, The Contemporary Presidency (1970); L. Crovitz and J. A. Rabkin, ed., The Fettered Presidency: Legal Constraints on the Executive Branch (1989).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.