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Brown Shapes

Philosophy & Political Economy

“The present divorce between the schools of political economy and law seem to me an evidence of how much progress in philosophical study still remains to be made…we are called on to consider and weigh the ends of the legislation, the means of attaining them, and the cost.”

O.W. Holmes, 1897

A.K. Shauku_Head Shot_02_Edited - Croppe

Adamu Kofi Shauku | MA, JD, PhD

Assistant Professor | Department of Political Science, Public Administration, and Planning

Associate Director, Ethics & Policy | Center for Integrated Studies in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Core Faculty | Global Studies Institute

Buffalo State University (SUNY)


Teaching Interests: American Government, Public Policy, Law & Courts, Comparative Political Systems.


Research Interests: Intersection of Politics, Philosophy, and the New Institutional Economics.


Background: U.S. Army Intelligence Interceptor and Translator (Korean); Mediator.


Recent Publications

Current Research

TEDx Talk

Recent and Upcoming Talks



Brown Shapes

Rational Basis of Liberal Constitutions

"Formally, Ulysses faced a problem of time inconsistency in his optimal plan. His optimal plan was to listen to the Sirens and then continue his journey. But this was time inconsistent, because once he had embarked on the plan by listening to the Sirens he would not be able to implement the later part of the plan, the rest of his journey. By contrast, a time consistent optimal plan is one that specifies a sequence of actions (At, At+1, At+2 and so on), one for each moment in time (T, T+1, T+2 and so on), which enjoys the property that the individual will actually choose in each time period the action specified by the plan. Thus, when T+1 occurs, having undertaken At in T, the individual will still choose At+1 as the best action rather than some other, and so on.

The time-inconsistency arises because the Sirens affect Ulysses’ preferences. His perception of the best action changes in the middle of the plan and this leads him to deviate from the original version. Ulysses implemented his optimal plan by denying himself freedom at the later stage of the plan. Having instructed his men to tie him to the mast and to ignore any orders to do anything other than sail past the rocks, he told them to plug their ears and row.

Thus, Ulysses established for himself a private constitution, a set of more or less binding rules that constrained his future choices. By exploiting elements of his natural and social environment, Ulysses was able to subvert certain inclinations of his future self, inclinations that he knew would be destructive to his overall interests but which would nevertheless prove irresistible when they arose."

Ludwig Van den Hauwe, 1997




Subfield Specialization: American Politics, Public Policy & Administration, Comparative Politics

Research Focus: Law & Courts, American Political Development, Comparative Institutional Analysis



Concentrations: Constitutional Law, Law & Economics, Mediation


Concentrations: Health Care Policy, Institutional Theory

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Recent Publications

  • Shauku, A.K. (2023). Emulation and Innovation in the Constitutional System. In J. L. Smith, & D. E. Klein (Eds.), The U.S. Constitution in 5 Minutes (pp. 17-20). Bristol: Equinox.

  • Shauku, A.K. (2022). American Hospital Association v. Becerra on Administrative Power over Health Care Funding. In M. Marietta (Ed.), SCOTUS 2022: Major Decisions and Developments of the US Supreme Court (pp. 109-116). Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Shauku, A.K. (2020). Institutional Entrepreneurship and Evolution: Making Sense of the American Judiciary. In D. J. D'Amico, Martin & G. Adam (Eds.), Philosophy, Politics, and Austrian Economics (Advances in Austrian Economics, vol. 25) (pp. 191-208). Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited.

Brown Shapes

Rules of the Road

“Rules of the road serve the function of allowing persons to pursue their separate and independent courses, which may conflict in the absence of rules… a set of rules may be preferred because it tolerates the coexistence of good and bad drivers on the road.”
–Geoffrey Brennan & James M. Buchanan, 1985

Circuit Court Map.PNG


The U.S. federal judiciary is the organ of national government responsible for the authoritative resolution of disputes arising under federal law. For reasons related to its historical institutional development, the system is itself a source of conflict through the issuance of non-uniform holdings by the twelve circuit courts of appeals. Due to the regional independence of these ‘sister circuits’ and the limited supervisory capacity of the U.S. Supreme Court, a substantial proportion of circuit conflicts—or circuit splits—appear to linger indefinitely. This phenomenon makes possible the cultivation of distinct bodies of national law in the twelve regions over which the appellate courts preside.

Debate centers on whether regional independence and the propensity for conflict constitutes an intolerable flaw or a beneficial feature of the U.S. federal courts. Though this debate is motivated in part by competing normative commitments, it largely turns on competing assumptions about the number of conflicts, their persistence, and the consequent costs and benefits to the legal system.

The U.S. Federal Judiciary as a Polycentric Order

Stage one of this research project is a historical-institutional account of the origins and development of America’s decentralized federal court system, peculiar even among federal political systems. The present structure of the system and its embedded norms are far from inevitable features and were not the product of far-sighted conscious design. I examine the critical junctures of American political development that produced such a system.

The Costs of Conflict Among the U.S. Courts of Appeals

While the decentralized structure of the courts has benefits, many scholars and jurists warn that the regional accretion of national law also carries substantial costs which may prove intolerable in the context of American legal development. The concerns center on the propensity to cause unfairness to litigants, nonacquiescence among federal agencies to conflicting authority, economic harms to multicircuit actors, and repetitive litigation from litigants seeking to initiate or exploit circuit conflict.

Stage two of this project examines newly-gathered data on 151 conflicts in four legal subject areas—employment discrimination, search and seizure, securities, and labor law—active from 1998-2010. As an initial effort to empirically evaluate the tolerability question, each conflict is assessed for (1) persistence, (2) the presence of characteristics that correlate with costs, and (3) legal significance.

A Multiplicity of Voices: Does Regional Independence Serve a Learning Function?

While some legal scholars express dismay over the costs of disharmony, others tout the benefits of intercircuit conflict—judicial learning through a process commonly described as “percolation.”

Stage three develops a theory of judicial-learning-by-percolation, derives several tests therefrom, and evaluates the intercircuit conflict data for patterns suggestive of judicial learning.

Comparing Federal Courts

Stage four is comparative-institutional. I survey several alternative institutional arrangements—some of which are employed in other federal political systems—and evaluate their desirability in light of the evidence adduced above.

Overall, this project investigates whether the propensity for conflict and the regional accretion of law constitutes an intolerable flaw, a beneficial feature, or a trivial quirk in a decentralized national judicial system. It contributes to our understanding of American political development, federalism, law & courts, public administration, comparative politics, and institutional theory.

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Brown Shapes

Institutions & Time

"Political actors, facing the pressures of the immediate or skeptical about their capacity to engineer long-term effects, may pay limited attention to the long term. Thus, the long-term effects of institutional choices, which are frequently the most profound and interesting ones, should often be seen as the by-products of social processes rather than embodying the goals of institutional actors."

-Paul Pierson, Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis (2011, 14)

Beneath the Surface

A little empathy and intellectual honesty go a long way...

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Law & Justice

“These plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it. Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails…”
–Frederic Bastiat, 1850


Home: Presentations

Constitution Day at Buffalo State University

September 21, 2023

Public Lecture: Democratic Governance and Courts as Political Insurance

Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference

April 13, 2023

Lightening Talk: Circuit Conflict and Percolation

Southeast Asia Week at Buffalo State University

March 23, 2023

Invited Lecture: America's Role in East Asia—Three Lenses

Northeastern Political Science Association Annual Conference

November 12, 2022

Considering the Costs of Circuit Conflict

Panel: The Expansive Judiciary

Constitution Day at Buffalo State University

September 17, 2021

Public Lecture: Constitutional Law as Discourse

Conversations In and Out of the Disciplines at Buffalo State University

April 30, 2021

Invited Lecture: The Costs of Circuit Conflict

Political Theory Project at Brown University

June 27-29, 2019

Institutional Entrepreneurship and Evolution--Making Sense of the American Judiciary

Symposium: Philosophy, Politics, and Austrian Economics

Western Political Science Association Annual Conference 

April 18-20, 2019

Percolation: Does Regional Independence Serve a Judicial Learning Function?

Panel: Explaining Judicial Behavior

Institutions and Lawmaking Conference at Emory University

March 1-2, 2019

Panel Discussant

Brown Shapes

Rule of Law

“The rule of law rests, first, on the inability of the one or the few to control the many, and second, on the willingness of the many to leave some scope for universal rights.”

-Gretchen Helmke and Frances Rosenbluth, 2009


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Brown Shapes

States & Markets

"A competitive market--the epitome of private institutions--is itself a public good... No market can exist for long without underlying public institutions to support it... public and private institutions frequently are intermeshed and depend on one another, rather than existing in isolated worlds."

-Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolutions of Institutions for Collective Action, 1990

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