Strategic Rationality, Sincere Rationality, and Bounded Rationality on the U.S. Supreme Court: How Can We Tell the Difference?
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), September 1-4, 2005
43 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2007
The recent judicial politics literature on the U.S. Supreme Court often presumes that the justices engage in "strategic" behavior. In particular, scholars are increasingly describing justices as making choices at the early stages of the Court's decision-making process that are intended to achieve their most-preferred outcomes at the final stage; the baseline comparison is usually taken to be the justices' non-strategic, or "sincere," behavior. However, this literature has paid insufficient attention to the fundamental conceptual problems of what strategic and sincere behavior should be expected to look like; that is; in an empirical study, how could we actually tell the difference? An important complicating factor is that assumptions can be made about how much information the justices have about other justices' most-preferred policies; it turns out that these informational assumptions can have a major impact on the kinds of behavior that should be expected from strategic justices. In thes paper, we explicate the concept of "strategic behavior" under conditions of both "perfect information" and "imperfect information" for the U.S. Supreme Court. We also explicate the concepts of "sincere rationality" and "bounded rationality" on the Court and explore the implications for judicial behavior. For each of these four sets of assumptions, we discuss what kinds of judicial behavior should be empirically observed. If these theoretical expectations are not taken into account in empirical research, tests of theories of what is alleged to be "strategically rational" behavior on the Court may be muddled and potentially misleading.
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