Law and economics expert Mathew D. McCubbins to join Duke faculty

October 9, 2012Duke Law News

Mathew D. McCubbins will join the Duke faculty in 2013, university officials have announced.

McCubbins, a widely respected interdisciplinary scholar whose work explores the intersections of law, business and political economy, will hold a joint appointment in Duke’s Department of Political Science and Duke Law School, according to Duke Law School Dean David F. Levi and Trinity College of Arts and Sciences Dean Laurie Patton.

McCubbins is now serving as the Provost Professor of Business, Law and Political Economy at the University of Southern California and as the director of the USC-CalTech Center for the Study of Law and Politics. He also has served on the political science faculty at the University of Texas, the business faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, the political science faculty at University of California, San Diego, and the law faculty at the University of San Diego. He will be in residence at Duke after a year’s sabbatical at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 2013-14.

McCubbins brings additional strength to Duke’s law and economics faculty, said Levi.

“In the last several years, with the hiring of Professors Jack Knight, John de Figueiredo, and now Mat McCubbins, Duke Law School has assembled a powerful, eminent trio in law and economics and legal empirical analysis,” said Levi. “These scholars are working at the forefront of the study of the major political and economic institutions in our democracy – legislatures, agencies, courts, and markets. Mat is a superstar in this field who will bring creativity and leadership to our faculty and to our research efforts in these areas. This is a tremendously exciting hire for Duke.”

McCubbins holds a PhD from the California Institute of Technology. He is a co-editor of the Journal of Legal Analysis, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A highly regarded teacher, he received the Chancellor’s Associates Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching at the University of California, San Diego, in 2008.

One of the nation’s leading scholars in the law and the study of democracy, McCubbins is credited with shaping the scholarly discussion of the role of regulatory agencies in government and of the lawmaking process, both in Congress and through the use of the ballot initiative. He is one of the founders of the positive political theory of law, which posits principally that political institutions are designed to shape incentives and to alter strategic situations in order to change the choices people make. In particular, McCubbins has studied how Congress designs and influences regulatory agencies as well as its own internal processes in order to enact law, leading to path-breaking work in the areas of administrative procedure, legislative process, and statutory interpretation. His scholarship also has highlighted the inefficacies of the popular ballot initiative, which provides a mechanism for the people to enact law without providing the means necessary to implement law.

A skilled social scientist who uses formal modeling and quantitative research methods to study behavior and decision-making, McCubbins has, in recent work, utilized game theory, network theory, and cognitive science to explore relationships among institutions and the development of public policy

“Mat is an outstanding scholar who will be a very important addition to the Duke faculty,” said Jack Knight, the Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science. “His expertise in the areas of legislative and judicial institutions will significantly enhance our existing strengths in the study of democratic governance and the rule of law. I personally look forward to working with him on a number of issues related to institutional analysis and design.”

“Mat McCubbins brings the tools of political science, economics, and law to conduct descriptive, formal, and statistical analyses of how Congress, agencies, and courts interact with each other and how the outcomes of legislation, regulation, and litigation are affected by the tug-of-war for control over policy,” said John de Figueiredo, the Edward and Ellen Marie Schwarzman Professor of Law and Professor of Strategy and Economics. “His recent work has also broadened scholars’ perspectives to include a deeper understanding of the psychological aspects of individuals and how behaviors affect outcomes. It is pioneering work that will tremendously deepen our faculty’s strength in these areas, and I am thrilled to welcome him to Duke.”

McCubbins is the co-author of six books: The Logic of Delegation, winner of the American Political Science Association's 1992 Gladys M. Kammerer Award; Legislative Leviathan (two editions), winner of the American Political Science Association Legislative Studies Section’s 1994 Richard F. Fenno Jr. Prize; The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know?; Stealing the Initiative; and Setting the Agenda: Responsible Party Government in the U.S. House of Representatives, winner of the 2005 American Political Science Association, Leon Epstein Award.

He also is the editor or co-editor of eight additional books and has authored or co-authored more than 120 scientific or legal articles, book chapters, and other written entries, with one winning the 1986 Congressional Quarterly Prize for best article on legislative politics and another winning the 2005 American Political Science Association’s SPPQ Award. As part of McNollgast, a psuedonym used by McCubbins and coauthors Roger Noll and Barry Weingast, he has published several important articles on positive political theory, administrative agencies, and statutory construction.

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