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    Originalism, textualism and judicial restraint all got short shrift in this term’s major environmental-regulations decision.

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    Ketanji Brown Jackson is the latest liberal to embrace an approach once associated with conservatives

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    We offer here a very few thoughts — essentially, only one thought — about a recent argument for a kind of generic originalism. The argument was published by Joel Alicea, a law professor at the Catholic University of America, in a draft paper titled “The Moral Authority of Original Meaning.”[1] Given that the paper claims to ground its argument in the classical legal tradition; that it has been heavily promoted by the quasi-official organs of legal originalism, such as the National Review and the Legal Theory Blog; and that the paper is, if nothing else, strikingly ambitious, a brief response seems warranted.

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    The ninth edition of this classic casebook Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy: Problems, Text, and Cases is streamlined and updated while retaining the previous editions’ rigor, comprehensiveness, and contextual approach.

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    This essay takes stock of the debate over common good constitutionalism and the revival of the classical legal tradition. In doing so, we suggest that several of the most common critiques of that revival are based on serious misconceptions and question-begging claims, especially for the superiority of originalism.Our hope is to clear away these myths so that actual engagement may occur. We hope to inaugurate a new phase of discussion, one in which critics of the classical legal tradition begin with a baseline comprehension of what it is they are criticizing. In a sense, despite all the sturm und drang, the real debate over common good constitutionalism has yet to begin.Part I sketches the largely ersatz debate so far. Part II introduces the essentials of the classical theory of law and of common good constitutionalism, which is nothing more than the core precepts of the classic legal tradition translated, adapted and applied to current constitutional debates. We do not purport to provide a comprehensive statement of the classical theory, but merely offer an introductory mini-primer, with references to more comprehensive literature. As we will see, the myths we will discuss beg even the elementary questions. Part III explains how the myths are incorrect—or, more precisely, beg the questions in controversy. In the conclusion, we invite genuine engagement with the classical legal tradition.

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    Following are lightly edited remarks delivered at a panel on “Unwritten Law,” held at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools on January 6, 2022. These informal remarks are of course not intended to be rigorous or comprehensive, merely suggestive. Many thanks to organizer Robert Leider and fellow panelists Jeremy Waldron, Steve Sachs and Ashraf Ahmed for their thoughts and contributions.

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    The way that Americans understand their Constitution and wider legal tradition has been dominated in recent decades by two exhausted approaches: the originalism of conservatives and the "living constitutionalism" of progressives. Is it time to look for an alternative? Adrian Vermeule argues that the alternative has been there, buried in the American legal tradition, all along. He shows that US law was, from the founding, subsumed within the broad framework of the classical legal tradition, which conceives law as "a reasoned ordering to the common good." In this view, law's purpose is to promote the goods a flourishing political community requires: justice, peace, prosperity, and morality. He shows how this legacy has been lost, despite still being implicit within American public law, and convincingly argues for its recovery in the form of "common good constitutionalism." This erudite and brilliantly original book is a vital intervention in America's most significant contemporary legal debate while also being an enduring account of the true nature of law that will resonate for decades with scholars and students.

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    Professor Nicholas (Nick) Barber’s learned and intelligent book on The Principles of Constitutionalism is best understood as an exercise in Aristotelian naturalism and moral and constitutional realism, of a sort much more characteristic of the classical law than of modern positivism. In view of the book’s implicitly classical approach, it would have benefited, at a number of key junctures, from drawing upon the rich and enduring tradition of the ius commune. Barber often speaks in the register of the classical law, perhaps without knowing it. Doing so more often, and more explicitly, would have improved an already impressive work.

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    Many presidents have been interested in asserting authority over independent regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve Board. The underlying debates raise large constitutional questions, above all about the meaning and justification of the idea of a “unitary executive.” In the first instance, however, the president’s authority over independent agencies depends not on the Constitution, but on a common statutory phrase, which allows the president to discharge the heads of such agencies for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” This phrase – the INM standard – is best understood to create a relationship of presidential review — and a particular remedy for legal delinquency flowing from that review. It allows the president to discharge members of independent agencies not only for laziness and torpor (“inefficiency”) or for corruption (“malfeasance”), but also for neglect of their legal duty, which includes egregiously erroneous decisions of policy, law, or fact, either repeatedly or on unusually important matters. Connecting this understanding to the Take Care Clause, we reject both a minimalist approach, which deprives the president of any kind of decisionmaking authority over policy made by independent agencies, and also a maximalist approach, which would treat the independent agencies as essentially identical to executive agencies, in terms of presidential oversight authority. This approach has strong implications for how to understand the President’s directive authority over the independent agencies.

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    In the theory of the administrative state, a central thread of debate has involved the effect of increasing economic and social complexity on the form of legal instruments. Drawing upon work by Pound, Schmitt and Dworkin, I show that the first two both assumed that the administrative state would increasingly abandon general rules in favor of ad hoc administrative commands — a development that the early Pound welcomed but that Schmitt feared. Ronald Dworkin, by contrast, predicted that the increasing complexity of the modern state would produce ever-greater reliance on relatively abstract legal principles rather than either rules or ad hoc commands. Dworkin’s prediction has largely been borne out in administrative law, particularly the law of judicial review of agency action. That body of law has developed over time by turning to abstract and general principles of rationality and procedural validity to maintain the public edifice of legality.

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    Under the U.S. Constitution, is the executive branch unitary, and if so, in what sense? For many decades, there has been a sharp dispute between those who believe in a strongly unitary presidency, in accordance with the idea that the president must have unrestricted removal power over high-level officials entrusted with implementation of federal law, and those who believe in a weakly unitary presidency, in accordance with the view that Congress may, under the Necessary and Proper Clause, restrict the president’s removal power, so long as the restriction does not prevent the president from carrying out his constitutionally specified functions. Both positions can claim support from the original understanding of relevant clauses; both can claim to keep faith with constitutional commitments in light of dramatically changed circumstances, above all the rise of the modern administrative state. In Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a sharply divided Court enthusiastically embraced the strongly unitary position, in an ambiguous opinion that might be read to preserve the constitutionality of independent multimember commissions, but that also left a great deal of room for constitutional challenges to such commissions in their present form. The Court’s analysis purports to be rooted in the original understanding of the constitution, and not implausibly so; but the Court relies so heavily on abstract principles, such as “liberty” and “accountability,” that its analysis is not easily distinguishable from a dynamic constitutionalism suffused with political morality. The Court’s holding and analysis can thus be seen as a direct outgrowth of modern anxiety, rooted in structural concerns, about the threats posed by a powerful, discretion-wielding administrative apparatus, and a belief that presidential control is an essential safeguard.

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    Many Americans fear the power of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats – the deep state. Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule seek to calm those fears by proposing a moral regime to ensure that government rulemakers behave transparently and don’t abuse their authority. The administrative state may be a Leviathan, but it can be a principled one.

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    Responding to Jeffrey A. Pojanowski, Neoclassical Administrative Law, 133 HARV.L.REV.852 (2020).

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    At the Philadelphia convention assembled to draft a new Constitution, Alexander Hamilton argued ‘[e]stablish a weak government and you must at times overleap the bounds. Rome was obliged to create dictators’. Publius then expands upon this argument in several ways in the Federalist. I suggest that Publius identifies a dynamic or mechanism, the ‘Publius Paradox’, that warrants great attention: under particular conditions, excessive weakness of government may become excessive strength. If the bonds of constitutionalism are drawn too tightly, they will be thrown off altogether when circumstances warrant. After illustrating and then analysing this ‘Publius Paradox’, I turn briefly to its implications, the main one being that constitutional law should be cast as a loosely‐fitting garment – particularly the executive component of the constitution and the scope of executive powers.

  • Adrian Vermeule, Address at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, 2018 Fall Conference, "Higher Powers”: Liberalism and the Invisible Hand (Nov. 2, 2018).

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    https://youtu.be/lVFc5dnz7Cw

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    At the Philadelphia convention assembled to draft a new Constitution, Alexander Hamilton argued “[e]stablish a weak government and you must at times overleap the bounds. Rome was obliged to create dictators.” Publius then expands upon this argument in several ways in the Federalist. I suggest that Publius identifies a dynamic or mechanism, the “Publius Paradox,” that warrants great attention: Under particular conditions, excessive weakness of government may become excessive strength. If the bonds of constitutionalism are drawn too tightly, they will be thrown off altogether when circumstances warrant. After illustrating and then analysing this “Publius Paradox,” I will turn briefly to its implications, the main one being that constitutional law should be cast as a loosely-fitting garment — particularly the executive component of the constitution and the scope of executive powers. 2018 Chorley Lecture, London School of Economics. Lecture video: https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AFgS0YbuvpwXhN4&cid=AF47A00F85EB8C77&id=AF47A00F85EB8C77%215252&parId=AF47A00F85EB8C77%213702&o=OneUp

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    As it has been developed over a period of many decades, administrative law has acquired its own morality, closely related to what Lon Fuller described as the internal morality of law. Reflected in a wide array of seemingly disparate doctrines, but not yet recognized as such, the morality of administrative law includes a set of identifiable principles, often said to reflect the central ingredients of the rule of law. An understanding of the morality of administrative law puts contemporary criticisms of the administrative state in their most plausible light. At the same time, the resulting doctrines do not deserve an unambiguous celebration, because many of them have an ambiguous legal source; because from the welfarist point of view, it is not clear if they are always good ideas; and because it is not clear that judges should enforce them.

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    The article offers the author's insights on how to engage the liberal empire into Christianity. Topics include the structural hostility of liberalism to the Church and how the Church acts under different political conditions, the association between the Church and politics, and the different options of Christians to engage in politics.

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    What, if anything, legitimates the administrative state? In this Essay, for the Harvard Law Review’s special issue celebrating the bicentennial of Harvard Law School, I examine three attempts to solve the administrative state’s legitimation problem, offered respectively by James Landis, by Louis Jaffe, and by Elena Kagan. The solutions have a common theme and a common structure: each appeals more or less explicitly to “independence.” Each attempts to find a remedy for distrust of unchecked administrative power, and each attempts to do so by identifying “independent” institutions that will monitor and oversee the bureaucracy. However, each compromises their claims in institutional circumstances where the force of competing values becomes particularly strong. The result is that each theorist ends up adopting a kind of roughly optimizing pluralism of values for the administrative state, a pluralism in which “independence” falls out of the picture as such, and in which the benefits of expertise, political accountability, and legalism all have some claims. Happily, this pluralist, rough, and imperfectly-optimizing approach seems adequate to legitimate the administrative state, at least in the sociological sense of legitimation as public acceptance.

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    Adrian Vermeule speaks with First Things assistant editor Connor Grubaugh about three books on constitutionalism from a Catholic perspective.

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    This chapter demystifies Carl Schmitt by interpreting his main insights through the lens of modern social sciences,. There is a large literature in political science on the political foundations of democracy, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. This literature emphasizes that legal rules, by themselves, cannot create a political equilibrium, which always depends on the expectation of political actors that other actors will contribute to preserving the constitutional regime rather than subverting it. This insight allows us to interpret Schmitt’s distinction between legality and legitimacy more concretely than in extant work. There is also a large literature in law and economics on ex ante rules versus ex post standards. Schmitt’s theory of the exception can be understood as an argument that governance through ex post standards, rather than ex ante rules, is inevitable and even desirable where political, economic, or military conditions change rapidly.

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    We examine exceptional cases in which judges are called upon to pass judgment on the constitution itself. There are three groups of cases. First, in exceptional cases the validity of the constitution and the legal order is thrown into dispute. The court is asked to rule on the legitimacy of the constitution and, by derivation, on the standing of the court and the legal authority of the judge. Second, on some occasions the judge is asked to rule on the transition from one constitutional order to another. This can occur in the aftermath of a revolution, or when the state is acceding to a new constitutional order. Third, there are some cases in which the health of the constitutional order requires the judge to act not merely beyond the law, as it were, but actually contrary to the law. The judge must act contrary to the rules of the legal order, precisely in order to preserve the health of the legal order. We claim that "constitutional decisionism" is inevitable in all three groups of cases. Courts sometimes have no option but to take it upon themselves to rule upon, and indeed to participate in constituting, the validity of the very constitutional order that gives them their authority, in a kind of bootstrapping.

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    For more than seventy years, courts have deferred to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous regulations. The Auer principle, as is it is now called, has attracted academic criticism and some skepticism within the Supreme Court. But the principle is entirely correct. In the absence of a clear congressional direction, courts should assume that because of their specialized competence, and their greater accountability, agencies are in the best position to decide on the meaning of ambiguous terms. The recent challenges to the Auer principle rest on fragile foundations, including an anachronistic understanding of the nature of interpretation, an overheated argument about the separation of powers, and an empirically unfounded and logically weak argument about agency incentives, which exemplifies what we call "the sign fallacy."

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    Ronald Dworkin once imagined law as an empire and judges as its princes. But over time, the arc of law has bent steadily toward deference to the administrative state. Adrian Vermeule argues that law has freely abandoned its imperial pretensions, and has done so for internal legal reasons. In area after area, judges and lawyers, working out the logical implications of legal principles, have come to believe that administrators should be granted broad leeway to set policy, determine facts, interpret ambiguous statutes, and even define the boundaries of their own jurisdiction. Agencies have greater democratic legitimacy and technical competence to confront many issues than lawyers and judges do. And as the questions confronting the state involving climate change, terrorism, and biotechnology (to name a few) have become ever more complex, legal logic increasingly indicates that abnegation is the wisest course of action. As Law’s Abnegation makes clear, the state did not shove law out of the way. The judiciary voluntarily relegated itself to the margins of power. The last and greatest triumph of legalism was to depose itself.

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    Judges on a multimember court might vote in two different ways. In the first, judges behave solipsistically, imagining themselves to be the sole judge on the court, in the style of Ronald Dworkin’s mythical Judge Hercules. On this model, judges base their votes solely on the information contained in the legal sources before them – statutes, regulations, precedents and the like – and the arguments of advocates. In the second model, judges vote interdependently; they take into account not only the legal sources and arguments, but also the information contained in the votes of other judges, based on the same sources and arguments. What does the law say about these two models? May judges take into account the votes of colleagues when deciding how to vote themselves? Should they do so? Are there even conditions under which judges must do so? To date, the law has no general theory about how to approach interdependent voting. Each setting is taken on its own terms, and judges muddle through. The problem is that some judges muddle in one direction, some in another, without any consistent approach, either across judges, or across settings. We argue for a presumption that judges not only may but should consider the votes of other judges as relevant evidence or information, unless special circumstances obtain that make the systemic costs of doing so clearly greater than the benefits. Our view is not absolutist; we do not say that judges should always and everywhere consider the votes of other judges. Under certain conditions, it may be better for decisionmakers not to attempt to consider all available information, and we will attempt to indicate what those conditions might be, in this domain. But we will argue that such conditions should not casually be assumed to exist. Interdependence should be the norm, and solipsism the exception, so that unless judges have good reason to do otherwise they should take into account the information contained in other judges’ votes. Our central case is an extended fugue on Chevron-related examples and variants, but we also consider qualified immunity, new rules in habeas corpus, mandamus, and the rule of lenity.

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    This paper was prepared for a conference about constraints on executive discretion. In addition to law and politics (to whatever extent they do or do not constrain the executive), there is also a distinct third bound on executive discretion: conventions, roughly understood as unwritten but obligatory rules of the political game. Debates over executive discretion should take account of distinctions between contingent politics and conventions; between intragovernmental conventions and extragovernmental conventions; and between conventions against doing things and conventions against saying things. The last distinction, in particular, illuminates the strong resistance, in contexts such as immigration, to executive policy statements that make explicit a pattern of enforcement discretion, one that would otherwise remain only implicit. Even holding legal authority constant, making that authority explicit through general policy statements may trigger the normatively-inflected political sanctions that are characteristic of conventions.

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    In the textbooks, procedural due process is a strictly judicial enterprise; although substantive entitlements are created by legislative and executive action, it is for courts to decide independently what process the Constitution requires. The notion that procedural due process might be committed primarily to the discretion of the agencies themselves is almost entirely absent from the academic literature. The facts on the ground are very different. Thanks to converging strands of caselaw -- partly involving due process, partly involving judicial deference to agency interpretation of procedural provisions in statutes, and partly involving the long shadow of Vermont Yankee v. NRDC -- agencies themselves are now the primary front-line expositors and appliers of the cost-benefit balancing test of Mathews v. Eldridge. The courts for their part often defer, explicitly or implicitly, to agencies’ due process decisions. I will defend this approach, and urge that it be made fully explicit. Rather than decide for themselves “what process is due,” courts should ask only whether the agency offered a rational justification for providing whatever process it did provide. Although the Mathews cost-benefit calculus would still supply the rule of decision, courts should merely review the application of that rule by agencies, and defer to reasonable agency decisions about the costs and benefits of procedural arrangements.

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    In the early twenty-first century, public law is being challenged by a fundamental assault on the legitimacy of the administrative state, under the banner of “the separation of powers.” The challengers frequently refer to the specter of Stuart despotism, and they valorize a (putatively) heroic opponent of Stuart despotism: the common-law judge, symbolized by Edward Coke. The New Coke is a shorthand for a cluster of impulses stemming from a belief in the illegitimacy of the modern administrative state. Despite its historical guise, the New Coke is a living-constitutionalist movement, a product of thoroughly contemporary values and fears -- perhaps prompted by continuing rejection, in some quarters, of the New Deal itself, and perhaps prompted by a reaction by some of the Justices to controversial initiatives from more recent presidents. In two important decisions in 2015, however, a supermajority of the Court refused to embrace the New Coke, and properly so. Instead the Court issued the long-awaited Vermont Yankee II, insisting that courts are not authorized to add procedures to those required by the APA, and reaffirmed the validity of Auer deference to agency interpretations of their own regulations. The Court’s approach promises to honor the multiple goals of administrative and constitutional law without embracing novel, ungrounded claims that betray basic commitments of the public legal order. For now, the center holds.

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    Under the Administrative Procedure Act, courts review and set aside agency action that is "arbitrary [and] capricious." In a common formulation of rationality review, courts must either take a "hard look" at the rationality of agency decisionmaking, or at least ensure that agencies themselves have taken a hard look. We will propose a much less demanding and intrusive interpretation of rationality review-a thin version. Under a robust range of conditions, rational agencies have good reason to decide in a manner that is inaccurate, nonrational, or arbitrary. Although this claim is seemingly paradoxical or internally inconsistent, it simply rests on an appreciation of the limits of reason, especially in administrative policymaking. Agency decisionmaking is nonideal decisionmaking; what would be rational under ideal conditions is rarely a relevant question for agencies. Rather, agencies make decisions under constraints of scarce time, information, and resources. Those constraints imply that agencies will frequently have excellent reasons to depart from idealized first-order conceptions of administrative rationality. Thin rationality review describes the law in action. Administrative law textbooks typically suggest that the State Farm decision in 1983 inaugurated an era of stringent judicial review of agency decisionmaking for rationality. That is flatly wrong at the level of the Supreme Court, where agencies have won no less than 92 percent of the sixty-four arbitrariness challenges decided on the merits since the 1982 Term. The Court's precedent embodies an approach to rationality review that is highly tolerant of the inescapable limits of agency rationality when making decisions under uncertainty. State Farm is not representative of the law; beloved of law professors, and frequently cited in rote fashion by judges, State Farm nonetheless lies well outside the mainstream of the Supreme Court's precedent. To encapsulate the Court's approach to rationality review, the best choice would be the powerfully deferential opinion in Baltimore Gas, decided in the same Term as State Farm. Plausibly, rather than living in the era of hard look review or the State Farm era, we live in the era of Baltimore Gas.

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    In recent years, several judges on the nation’s most important regulatory court -- the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit -- have given birth to libertarian administrative law, in the form of a series of judge-made doctrines that are designed to protect private ordering from national regulatory intrusion. These doctrines involve nondelegation principles, protection of commercial speech, procedures governing interpretive rules, arbitrariness review, standing, and reviewability. Libertarian administrative law can be seen as a second-best option for those who believe, as some of the relevant judges openly argue, that the New Deal and the modern regulatory state suffer from basic constitutional infirmities. Taken as a whole, libertarian administrative law parallels the kind of progressive administrative law that the same court created in the 1970s, and that the Supreme Court unanimously rejected in the Vermont Yankee case. It should meet a similar fate. Two cases to be decided next Term provide an opportunity for the Court to repudiate libertarian administrative law.

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    How should administrative law cope with genuine uncertainty, in which probabilities cannot be attached to outcomes? I argue that there is an important category of agency decisions under uncertainty in which it is rational to be arbitrary. Rational arbitrariness arises when no first-order reason can be given for the agency’s choice, yet the agency has valid second-order reasons to make a particular choice. When these conditions obtain, even coin flipping may be a perfectly rational strategy of decision making for agencies. Courts should defer to rationally arbitrary decisions. There is a proper role for courts in ensuring that agencies have adequately invested resources in information gathering, which may dispel uncertainty. Yet in some cases the value of further investments in information gathering will be genuinely uncertain. If so, courts should defer to agencies’ second-order choices about informational investments on the same grounds that justify deference to agencies’ first-order choices under uncertainty. If the [Board of Immigration Appeals] proposed to narrow the class of deportable aliens eligible to seek [legal] relief by flipping a coin—heads an alien may apply for relief, tails he may not—we would reverse the policy in an instant. That is because agency action must be based on non-arbitrary, “relevant factors.” (Judulang v. Holder, 132 S. Ct. 476, 485 [2011] [Kagan, J.]) The sense in which I am using the term [“uncertainty”] is that in which the prospect of a European war is uncertain, or the price of copper and the rate of interest twenty years hence, or the obsolescence of a new invention, or the position of private wealth-owners in the social system in 1970. About these matters there is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability whatever. We simply do not know. Nevertheless, the necessity for action and for decision compels us as practical men to do our best to overlook this awkward fact and to behave exactly as we should if we had behind us a good Benthamite calculation of a series of prospective advantages and disadvantages, each multiplied by its appropriate probability, waiting to be summed. (Keynes 1937, p. 214)

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    How should the administrative state be organized, from the epistemic point of view? There is a tension or tradeoff between local and global knowledge; this tradeoff implicitly structures a number of debates about the epistemic capacities of line agencies, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and the administrative state more generally. I will examine the tradeoff between local and global knowledge at two related levels. The first is the scope of the administrative state’s regulatory jurisdiction; this is the large-scale question of government versus markets that is central to the Hayekian program. The second level is the internal organization of the regulatory bureaucracy, within the area committed to the administrative state’s regulatory jurisdiction. Here the industrial organization literature has adapted Hayekian questions to new settings. On the first issue, Hayekian arguments for a constrained administrative state overlook the ability of non-market institutions to aggregate local and tacit knowledge. On the second issue, top-down epistemic coordination of agencies turns out to be indispensable; OIRA aggregates and coordinates dispersed information – information that is dispersed around the bureaucracy, rather than society -- and does so in a manner that cannot be replicated by decentralized horizontal coordination among agencies.

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