Economics of the Law: Torts, Contracts, Property, Litigation

Economics of the Law: Torts, Contracts, Property, Litigation

Economics of the Law: Torts, Contracts, Property, Litigation

Economics of the Law: Torts, Contracts, Property, Litigation


Over the past two decades, the field of law and economics has matured to the point where scholars have employed the latest economic methods in an effort to understand the nature of legal rules and to guide legal reform. This book is the first to provide a broad survey of this scholarship as it has been applied to problems in torts, contracts, property, and litigation. It will therefore serve as a convenient reference guide to this exciting field.


This book arose from a one-semester graduate course in law and economics that I taught at the University of Connecticut. My purpose in the course was to acquaint students with the "state of the art" of law and economics scholarship in a way that would prepare them to write either a masters or a Ph.D. thesis in the area. To that end, I chose to go into detail in a few core areas of the law with an emphasis on methodology, rather than to attempt a comprehensive overview of the field. That decision is reflected in this book, which undertakes a detailed analysis of the traditional common law topics of torts, contracts, and property, along with issues associated with the litigation-settlement decision (e.g., the selection of disputes for trial, evolution of the law toward efficiency, and frivolous litigation), while omitting consideration of other topics that fall under the heading of law and economics (most notably, corporate law and the economics of crime).

The stated objective of the book necessitated the use of a fair amount of technical analysis (primarily algebra and basic calculus), though no more than is commonly employed in the standard law and economics journals. Thus, the book will be useful as a text in graduate courses on law and economics and as a reference for those doing research in the field. At the same time, I have attempted as much as possible to provide intuitive explanations of the results and to illustrate the basic concepts with examples from actual cases. Thus, the book could also be accessible to advanced undergraduate economics and business students, and quantitatively oriented law students with an interest in economics.

I would like to acknowledge the input of my students in helping to shape both the content and the organization of the material. There is no better way to organize one's ideas on a topic than to have to prepare a course on it and subject it to questioning students. I would also like to acknowledge the comments of several reviewers of the manuscript. The current version incorporates many of their suggestions. I also greatly appreciate the enthusiasm and support that Ken MacLeod and Herb Addision at Oxford showed for the project, especially at its early stages. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the support and encouragement of my wife Ana throughout the preparation of the manuscript.

Storrs, Connecticut


January 1996 . . .

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