Course Catalog

Public Choice and Public Law Seminar (3)

This seminar, which can be used to satisfy the Advanced Writing Requirement, should be of particular value to students who are interested in economics, political science, or public policy. Public choice is a body of literature that applies the tools of economics to the subject matter of political science. The umbrella “public choice” embraces two complementary disciplines. The first, interest group theory, studies the influence of group behavior on the structure, processes, and outputs of political and lawmaking institutions. The second, social choice, studies the implications of an anomaly of group decision making known as “cycling” for a variety of institutions and issues of law and public policy. In recent years, an impressive group of legal scholars, writing from across the political spectrum, have drawn upon the tools of public choice and social choice to study law making institutions and to assess a range of subject areas within public law.

This course is designed to introduce students to the underlying concepts of public choice and social choice and to provide students with the skills with which to critically assess the works of legal scholars writing in this increasingly important field. Most importantly, this course is designed to encourage critical thinking about a range of topics in public law and policy from a perspective that is likely new to most students. The first half of the course will provide students with a critical introduction to and analysis of public choice and social choice literature, along with some elementary price theory and game theory. During the introduction, students will compare the comparative institutional competence of courts and legislatures at various decision making tasks, consider the implications of the item veto for legislative bargaining, and evaluate the nature of parliamentary rules of procedure in affecting legislative agenda setting. The second half will consider applications of public choice and social choice concepts to the following topics in law and public policy: the doctrine of stare decisis; justiciability, with a particular emphasis on standing; the dormant commerce clause; issue versus outcome voting in the Supreme Court; the nondelegation doctrine; term limits; and the claimed efficiency of common law rules.

The primary vehicle for instruction will be Professor Stearns’s course book, Public Choice and Public Law: Readings and Commentary (Anderson 1997), which presents a broad range of edited articles applying public choice and social choice to various topics in public law and policy, along with supplemental readings. Students will be expected to write two short papers (approximately three to four pages) and one major research paper, applying the covered concepts to topics of their own choosing, which they will present in draft form to the class. Writing done for this seminar may be used to satisfy the Advanced Writing Requirement. P: Constitutional Law

Current & Previous Instructors:
Max Stearns;

This course is not currently scheduled.


Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved