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

Fall 2003

GOV 381L • Constitutional Politics

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35963 T
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
BUR 436A

Course Description

Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. 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 will 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

Grading: 1. All students will prepare a short analytic essay early in the semester, and an annotated bibliography at mid-semester. These assignments, along with regular class participation will count 50% of the grade. 2. Students interested primarily in exam preparation will complete an examination near the end of the semester. (50% of grade) OR 3. Students interested in research will write a 20-25 page paper. (50%) 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.


Jones, Separate But Equal Branches Fisher, Constitutional Conflict between Congress and the President Silverstein, Imbalance of Powers Wilson & Schram, Separation of Powers and Good Government Harriger, Independent Justice: The Federal Special Prosecutor in American Politics Black, Impeachment Weissman, A Culture of Deference Storing, Toward a More Perfect Union


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