Wythe Lecture to Discuss Whether Public Debt Can Enhance Democracy

Clayton Gillette, Greenberg Professor of Contract Law at New York University School of Law, will discuss the impact of public debt on democracy as part of the George Wythe Lecture Series hosted by William & Mary Law School. Free and open to the public, the lecture will be held on April 3 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 124 of the Law School.

Gillette has titled his lecture "Can Public Debt Enhance Democracy?" and his presentation will question the ability of constituents to monitor governmental expenditures to ensure that they mirror constituent preferences. Particularly in light of constituents' ability to free-ride on the efforts of others and the possibility that emerging democracies may not have a large enough or wealthy enough class of taxpayers to engage in such monitoring, Gillette observes that "in these circumstances, public creditors may be able to provide a plausible substitute for constituents. Indeed, the history of democracy suggests that creditors - by requiring borrowers to make credible commitments to repay debts - have obligated debtor governments to avoid activities that are inconsistent with the interests of constituents."

Gillette will discuss the conditions under which creditors' interests align with those of constituents, and examine both the ability of public credit to enhance democratic institutions and the boundaries of that ability. He will then apply his findings to public borrowing by developing nations and by states in the United States.

As the Greenberg Professor of Contract Law at New York University School of Law, Gillette teaches in the areas of commercial law, contracts, and local government law. He received his B.A. from Amherst College and his J.D. from the University of Michigan School of Law. Before entering academia, he clerked for Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and practiced at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton in New York City. Gillette has since served in a variety of academic posts, including positions as the Bowen Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, as Professor of Law and Warren Scholar in Municipal Law at Boston University, as Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and as Vice Dean at New York University School of Law. The author of numerous scholarly articles, he also has co-authored a textbook titled Municipal Debt and Finance Law as well as a number of casebooks, including Sales Law: Domestic and International, Payment Systems and Credit Instruments, and Local Government Law.

The George Wythe Lecture Series began at the Law School in 1976. Wythe (1726-1806) was a distinguished lawyer, statesman, and judge, and was a mentor to Thomas Jefferson. In 1779, at Jefferson's urging, he was appointed as William & Mary's - and the nation's - first professor of law.