Local Government Law’s “Law and ___” Problem


Local government law scholarship has a “law and ___” problem. It should be relatively uncontroversial to note that, over the last forty years, most fields of legal scholarship have been profoundly transformed by the incorporation of the tools and analytical methods used in economics, political science, and other social scientific disciplines. Local government law has not been immune. It is not hard to find in local government law scholarship discussions of concepts drawn from economics and political science, as well as from a host of other disciplines. What is notable, and what I will show in this Essay, is that these references are, for the most part, extremely dated.

Specifically, I will argue that local government law has not kept up with the intellectual movements that have defined the last twenty or so years in the study of cities or politics. I will focus on the two areas of social science that have been among the most important influences on legal scholarship generally: economics and positive political science. But as I will discuss in the conclusion, the same point could be made with respect to other social scientific disciplines. Our field has had many successes, but it is being held back by a failure to keep up with contemporary social science.