Frontiers of Legal Theory

By Boudreaux, Donald J. | Ideas on Liberty, December 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Frontiers of Legal Theory


Boudreaux, Donald J., Ideas on Liberty


Frontiers of Legal Theory by Richard A. Posner Harvard University Press * 2001 * 453 pages * $35.00

I am one of Judge Richard Posner's most sincere and enthusiastic admirers. Not only am I, like everyone who knows of him, in awe of his remarkable rate of scholarly output, I also deeply admire the content of his scholarship. He is one of the most creative and engaging scholars of the past century.

Frontiers of Legal Theory is a collection of 14 of Posner's articles and talks, all of which are published separately elsewhere. As a result, only two general threads connect the essays into a single book. One is described by the book's title-but then, nearly everything that Posner writes is on the frontiers of legal theory. For more than 30 years he has been the most intrepid and creative advocate of examining, and molding, law with Chicago-style economics. From antitrust and utility regulation to literature to the history of ideas to the economics of allowing birth mothers to sell their parental rights in their infant children to the Clinton sex scandal, Posner's fascinating mind has touched almost every conceivable issue in the social sciences and shown how economics can illuminate them.

The second thread is Posner's long-time insistence that law be understood and crafted pragmatically. He sensibly rejects the idea that law does or should reflect a morality that transcends human reality, as well as the opposite idea that law is nothing more than the imposition by the powerful of their greedy will on the weak. Whether his pragmatic, economics-based understanding of law is the best alternative to these (and other) notions of law is a question that no review of this size can hope to answer.

Having read nearly all of Posner's books, I must report a regular occurrence. When reading him, I often think to myself, "What?! That can't be right." But invariably, as I read on, I discover that his arguments almost always convince me. And even when I remain unconvinced, I find that I've learned a surprising amount by taking him seriously.

What do I find in the book reviewed here? Too many interesting things to evaluate in a short space. Posner here speculates about the influence of Jeremy Bentham on the lawand-economics movement. He explores the markets for speech, for history, for social norms, and for scholarly output. He illuminates the law and economics of possession, of testimony, of emotions, of forensic evidence, and of judicial performance. This range is indeed wide.

To get a sense of Posner's thinking, consider this sample of points made in this book: It makes good economic sense to protect flag burning under the First Amendment because "The force of the gesture is greatly weakened if .

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Frontiers of Legal Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?