The Mask of Virtue: Theories of Aretaic Legislation in a Public Choice Perspective

63 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2014 Last revised: 4 Jun 2014

See all articles by Donald J. Kochan

Donald J. Kochan

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 11, 2014


This Article is a first-of-its-kind application of public choice theory to recently developing theories of virtue jurisprudence. Particularly, this Article focuses on not-yet-developed theories of aretaic (or virtue-centered) legislation. This Article speculates what the contours of such theories might be and analyzes the production of such legislation through a public choice lens. Any virtue jurisprudence theory as applied to legislation would likely demand that the proper ends of legislation be deemed as “the promotion of human flourishing” and the same would constitute the test by which we would determine the legitimacy of any legislation.

As noble as virtuous behavior, virtuous laws, virtuous judging, or virtuous legislation may be, there is no reason to believe that any such theories, if employed and adopted as decision rules, would be any less susceptible to the debilitating realities of public choice and interest group behavior than other principles or metrics intended to guide lawmaking. We cannot expect interest groups to be virtuous in the ends sought or lawmaking to be virtuous in the commodities offered and produced. Legislators remain subject to interest group bargaining and will manipulate a virtue-based rule for private gains through masking techniques rather than advance the concept of virtue itself. While some legislation will be drafted to seem virtuous to the public on its outside, its interior will be filled with rent-seeking bounties.

Keywords: virtue jurisprudence, virtue ethics, virtue legislation, aretaic legislation, virtue politics, virtue, public choice, masking, legislation, interest group theory, baptists and bootleggers, statutory interpretation

JEL Classification: K10, K40, H11, H30, H40, P10, P20, Z10, A12, D60, D63

Suggested Citation

Kochan, Donald J., The Mask of Virtue: Theories of Aretaic Legislation in a Public Choice Perspective (February 11, 2014). St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 58, No. 2, 2014, Chapman University, Fowler Law Research Paper No. 14-3, Available at SSRN:

Donald J. Kochan (Contact Author)

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University ( email )

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