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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2007

GOV 381L • Constitutional Conflict

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
40233 M
7:00 PM-10:00 PM
BAT 1.104

Course Description

Many of the most important debates regarding the nature and character of contemporary American politics are essentially arguments regarding the structure of separation of powers. In this seminar we will consider such questions as whether the American system is prone to deadlock of stalemate in the construction of national policy; whether conflict is a hindrance to institutional responsibility or an essential attribute of responsibility; whether there are "political questions" especially suitable to resolution between President and Congress; and whether it is truly possible to harness the ambition of office holders to the duties of their office. More specifically, we will review literature and arguments regarding constitutional reform; divided government; separation of powers theory; and case studies of Supreme Court appointments; the budget process; and war powers and foreign affairs. We may also discuss current controversies surrounding the Independent Counsel statute and the impeachment process. The course is designed to accommodate two different student needs: it will provide a good overview of important literature relevant to the comprehensive examination in American politics and it will provide opportunities for research. This subject area is a treasure trove of hot topics, publication possibilities, subjects for MA theses and Ph.D. dissertations. I will tailor the written requirements to the objectives of individual students.

Grading Policy

1. All students will prepare a short analytic essay early in the semester, and an annotated bibliography at mid-semester. These assignments will count (30%) of the grade. 2. Students interested primarily in exam preparation will complete an examination near the end of the semester based on study questions assigned in advance. OR Students interested in research will write a 20-25 page paper. (60%) 3. A basic requirement of the course is that students prepare for each seminar by carefully reading the material assigned for that week. Class discussion is an essential component of the course. (10%)


Jones, Separate But Equal Branches The Federalist Silverstein, Imbalance of Powers Burgess, Contest for Constitutional Authority Tushnet, The New Constitutional Order Weissman, A Culture of Deference Fisher, Congressional Abdication on War and Spending Wilson & Schram, Separation of Powers and Good Government


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