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The Political Economy of Law: Decision-Making by Judicial, Legislative, Executive and Administrative Agencies

Aug 2005
Working Paper
04-035
By  Mat McCubbins, Roger Noll, Barry Weingast
In the 1980s scholars began applying Positive Political Theory (PPT) to study public law. This chapter summarizes that body of research and its relationship to other schools of legal thought. Like Law and Economics, PPT of Law uses sequential game theory to examine how rules and procedures shape policy and evaluates these outcomes from the perspective of economic efficiency. Like the Legal Process School in traditional legal scholarship, PPT of Law focuses on how the structure and process of legislative, bureaucratic and judicial decision-making influences the law and evaluates these procedures using the principle of democratic legitimacy; however, rather than using procedural norms derived from moral and political philosophy to evaluate procedures, PPT of Law conceptualizes the decision-making procedures of government as rationally designed by elected officials to shape the policies arising from decisions by executive agencies, the courts, and future elected officials. After summarizing this theory, the essay turns to applications of this approach in administrative law and statutory interpretation.