James R. Rogers

James Rogers is associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University, and is a fellow with the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. He also served as editor of the Journal of Theoretical Politics from 2006 through 2013.

The Challenge of Political Ignorance to American Democracy

Democracy and political ignorance

The argument in The Federalist that the Constitution seeks to control majoritarian excess is well known. It seeks to control the influence of state-level majoritarian factions by nationalizing some policy areas for national rather than state control. And it creates national-level checks and balances, not to be anti-democratic, as so many critics would have it, but as a political version of “count-to-ten-when-you’re-angry-before-saying-anything” strategy to avoid taking action in a fit of passion that we might regret later. So important are these topics that their consideration have tended to overshadow a subsidiary theme developed at length in The Federalist, that of acquiring…

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Does America Need a New ‘Science of Politics’?

Professor Buckley argues in “American Exceptionalism” that presidents cause countries with the office to realize less freedom on average than countries with prime ministers. Below I explain why neither Buckley’s theoretical claims nor the empirical evidence he provides persuades me that his conclusion is warranted. Before digging into his argument, however, I do want to appreciate Buckley’s approach to the topic: Answers to questions of constitutional and institutional design are more contingent than many commentators, let alone the public, often allow. I am second to none in my admiration for what the U.S. framers created. They nonetheless advanced contestable theoretical and…

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More Responses

The Exceptional American Presidency

Rare is it to find an academic who tries to do justice to his university’s namesake. Imagine what Rockefeller, Carnegie, Stanford, and Vanderbilt, not to mention good old Harvard and Yale, would think about what goes on under their names.  But law professor Frank Buckley, at least, attempts to carry forth the torch of George…

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American Exceptionalism: Response

 We are all patriots first, philosophers second. And that is just as it should be. Still, the patriotic American must admit that his country’s constitution was not made for export, and that parliamentary countries enjoy more political freedom. That’s not to say that America is anything other than free. Still, as he surveys the shipwreck…

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Jack Balkin’s Progressive Reformation

Progressive intellectual leaders warred with the U.S. Constitution at the turn of the 19th Century. While conceding that the Constitution was an advance on its alternatives in 1789, Progressives criticized the constitutional system for having too many checks and balances relative to the needs of the modern times of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Bicameralism, judicial review, the powerful congressional committee system, Progressives argued that all of these had the effect of checking good laws as well as bad. Progressive Sen. George Norris of Nebraska frankly argued that the constitutional system resulted in the enactment of too-little legislation relative to public need.

While effective, amending the Constitution proved too difficult in practice to achieve many of the Progressives’ goals. One means to accomplish Progressive legislative goals without the difficulty of constitutional amendment was the Progressive legal argument that judges should reflexively defer to legislation enacted at both the state and the national level.

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