Regulation for the Sake of Appearance

58 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2011

See all articles by Adam M. Samaha

Adam M. Samaha

New York University School of Law

Date Written: October 7, 2011


Appearance is often given as a justification for decisions, including government decisions, but the logic of appearance arguments is not well theorized. This Article develops a framework for understanding and evaluating appearance-based justifications for government decisions. First, working definitions are offered to distinguish appearance from reality. Next, certain relationships between appearance and reality are singled out for attention. Sometimes reality is insulated from appearance, sometimes appearance helps drive reality over time, and sometimes appearance and reality collapse from the outset. Finally, sets of normative questions are suggested based on the supposed relationship between appearance and reality for a given situation. These normative questions include aesthetics, transparency concerns, and the likelihood of a self-fulfilling prophecy. A final section applies these ideas to prominent debates over campaign finance regulation and broken windows policing. Leading empirical studies are examined and, throughout, the Article draws from scholarship in philosophy, sociology, psychology, economics, and political science.

Keywords: appearance, expressivism, transparency, self-fulfilling prophecy, campaign finance regulation, broken windows policing, order maintenance policing

Suggested Citation

Samaha, Adam M., Regulation for the Sake of Appearance (October 7, 2011). U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 576, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 364, Available at SSRN: or

Adam M. Samaha (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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