Saturday, March 15, 2008

Public Choice Text for Review

Mark Graber

My colleague, Maxwell Stearns and Todd Zywicki (of Volokh Conspiracy fame) are currently writing a coursebook entitled Public Choice Concepts and Applications in Law, which is presently scheduled for publication in the fall 2009 with West Publishing. The book is designed for classroom instruction either as a complete course in public choice and the law or as a complement to, or substitute for, a traditional course in law and economics. They are very much interested in having professors teaching public choice or law and economics test drive a prepubliction edition of the manuscript.

The book project presently has three parts. Part I of the book contains four chapters, which together introduce the basic concepts of public choice theory, including a general introduction to economic reasoning (with an appendix on elementary price theory); interest-group theory and rent-seeking; social choice theory; and elementary game theory. Each chapter includes clear presentations of the underlying concepts and a series of discussion points and case applications of covered concepts. Part II then applies these combined tools to analyze collective decision-making in four institutional settings: the legislature, the judiciary, the executive branch, and constitutions and constitutional design. Each chapter analyzes the incentives of decision-makers within each institutional setting and the implications of public choice and social choice for decision-making within each of these contexts. As in Part I, each chapter in this part provides several applications, including primary legal materials, that encourage students to apply the insights of public choice theory to concrete legal settings. Part III applies the frameworks developed in parts I and II to a broad range of specific substantive areas of law. These include such areas as the commerce clause (affirmative and dormant), standing, proposals for constitutional reform, environmental law and policy, methods of constitutional interpretation, bankruptcy and corporate law, and corruption and the rule of law. Part III is designed to allow professors to select from a menu of different topical areas and thus to teach to their particular areas of interest. While this aspect of the book is still in development, we are contemplating having Part III take the form of a web interface through which professors can download particular chapters to supplement the bound materials, which would then include parts I and II.

At the current time we have completed drafts of Parts I and II of the book and we can send these parts to you for your review. We also have a list of the readings that will provide the basis for the chapters in Part III and a prototype chapter on the commerce clause.

Those interested in reviewing the chapters should contact Maxwell Stearns at or Todd Zywicki at I should simply add that both are first rate public choice scholars, so I suspect the manuscript will be well worth taking a look at.


Does this text and its authors have any connection with the Public Choice Society which has a website at:

I have been dropping in at that website only on a limited basis as position papers do not seem readily available.

Are the authors of the new text considering SSRN to give us a taste of what to expect?

Is the concept of Public Choice non-partisan?

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