History Through Spreadsheets: Executive Orders

Quote of the Day

The tragedy of war is that it uses man's best to do man's worst.

Henry Fosdick. Some of the finest engineering I ever saw occurred when I was working on defense contracts. I often wished that kind of brain power could have been focused on space exploration, curing diseases, and educating others.

Figure 1: Average Number of Yearly Executive Orders By President.

Figure 1: Average Number of Yearly Executive Orders By President. (Data Source)

During my recent seminar on Excel's Power Query feature, I showed my team how to grab data executive order data from the web and generate a simple plot (Figure 1). After generating the plot, I asked the audience what we could learn from this graph. I was expecting to hear that the early 1900s – the time between Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt – was a time of massive use of executive orders.

The audience response was much different than I anticipated:

  • They did not realize that executive orders have existed since the beginning of the US – Washington issued executive orders.
  • Many believed that Obama had issued an unusual number of executive orders. In fact, he is somewhere in the middle of the pack and slightly less than George W. Bush. You can double check this on a Snopes.
  • The enormous number of executive orders issued by Franklin Roosevelt were a surprise to the group. Many people forget that FDR had to deal with the massive challenges of the Great Depression and WW2. His detractors often accused him of governing through executive order. His most infamous executive order interned Japanese-Americans during WW2. Many feel that the 22nd amendment, which limits presidents to two terms, was passed in response to Roosevelt's use of executive power during his four terms.

Here is my source for those of you who like to follow along.

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3 Responses to History Through Spreadsheets: Executive Orders

  1. Ronan Mandra says:

    Mark, considering all-in-all with the new administration, this is a timely article.
    In your Excel Workbook, referenced under source, you have a tab "PQ_Functions." I'm not sure what that tab has to do with the rest of the article.

    • mathscinotes says:

      This workbook was presented during my Excel seminar. A seminar participant asked how to list all the functions present in Power Query. I responded by adding a query using the "#shared" command that lists all the functions available in PQ. It is not needed to generate this plot, but I often include that query so that I can remember what functions exist.

      You are going to see a number of these practice queries presented over the next few weeks. I am trying to show the folks all the different ways they can load data into Excel and clean it up for processing.


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