Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

West Virginia Law Review




Behavioral public choice is the study of irrationality among political actors. In this context, irrationality means systematic bias, a deviation from rational expectations, or other departure from economists’ conception of rationality. Behavioral public choice scholars extend the insights of behavioral economics to the political realm and show that irrational behavior is an important source of government failure. This Article makes an original contribution to the legal literature by systematically reviewing the findings of behavioral public choice and explaining their implications for the law and legal institutions. We discuss the various biases and heuristics that lead political actors to support and adopt bad laws and describe how irrationality influences specific areas of the law, including tax, antitrust, consumer protection, corporate, and employment law. We also discuss various proposals for minimizing the effects of irrationality on public policy. Our goal is to introduce this new field of research to legal scholars, most of whom have previously ignored it. Familiarity with behavioral public choice will help legal scholars better understand the types of policies that are likely to emerge from real-world political processes and will facilitate efforts to promote realistic policy reform.

First Page


Last Page


Num Pages


Volume Number


Issue Number



West Virginia University



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.