Libertarian Administrative Law

58 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2014 Last revised: 28 Aug 2014

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Adrian Vermeule

Harvard Law School

Date Written: June 29, 2014


In recent years, several judges on the nation’s most important regulatory court -- the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit -- have given birth to libertarian administrative law, in the form of a series of judge-made doctrines that are designed to protect private ordering from national regulatory intrusion. These doctrines involve nondelegation principles, protection of commercial speech, procedures governing interpretive rules, arbitrariness review, standing, and reviewability. Libertarian administrative law can be seen as a second-best option for those who believe, as some of the relevant judges openly argue, that the New Deal and the modern regulatory state suffer from basic constitutional infirmities. Taken as a whole, libertarian administrative law parallels the kind of progressive administrative law that the same court created in the 1970s, and that the Supreme Court unanimously rejected in the Vermont Yankee case. It should meet a similar fate. Two cases to be decided next Term provide an opportunity for the Court to repudiate libertarian administrative law.

Keywords: libertarianism, commercial speech, cost-benefit analysis, nondelegation, rulemaking, standing

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R. and Vermeule, Adrian, Libertarian Administrative Law (June 29, 2014). University of Chicago Law Review, Forthcoming, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 14-29, Available at SSRN: or

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Adrian Vermeule

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts
Griswold 500
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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