Truth on the Market Examines "Chicago’s View on the Future of Law and Economics"

Chicago’s View on the Future of Law and Economics
Josh Wright
Truth on the Market
October 22, 2011

A very interesting group of essays on the future of law and economics by ten University of Chicago professors.  It is especially interesting in light of the attempt to revitalize law and economics in Chicago.  The essays exhibit a great diversity in views of what lies in store for the future of law and economics — a topic I’ve written about frequently at TOTM (and along with Henry Manne available here on SSRN).  Its an interesting discussion.  Here’s my quick, rough and ready guide to the 10 essays — which comes with a recommendation to check them all out in their entirety of course — followed by a few comments and reactions at the end of this  post.

  • Douglas Baird: Law and economics will return to its Chicago-born empirical roots, though the return is complicated by the reduced cost of empirical tools and access to data which give rise to the possibility of an “empirical bubble” (as Larry Ribstein has described it) and a tendency to settle into reliance upon those tools as a substitute for finding new and interesting questions to answer.
  • Omri Ben-Sharar: The view that law and economics will follow “technical” trend in economics is wrong.  One need not worry about law and economics losing its “retail value” — a concern I’ve raised on the blog a number of times — Omri argues, because law and economics has “maintained a stronghold on American legal academia for over 30 years by being relevant, accessible, and relentless in luring new audiences.”  I’m a bit confused by this essay; Ben-Shahar argues that the view that the trend towards the technical trend in economics and law and economics scholarship is no concern, but cites considerable evidence that the trend is real and be explained by the reduction in the return from traditional L&E scholarship.  However, Ben-Sharar is optimistic that higher return opportunities present themselves in exporting law and economic analysis across international boundaries and into new subject matter domestically.
  • Anu Bradford: international law and economics analysis, and public choice, have become incredibly complex in the modern world and are a growth area for future scholarship.
  • Eric Posner: This is my favorite of the essays.  Posner contemplates a strong form of the divergence between economists doing law and economics (ELE) and lawyers doing law and economics (LLE); he goes on to discuss an area in which there is indeed a significant gap between economic theorists and law and economics scholars: contracts.  Posner  discusses a variety of reasons for why this specialization is troubling for both fields.
Faculty: 
Douglas G. Baird
Faculty: 
Omri Ben-Shahar
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Eric Posner
Faculty: 
Saul Levmore
Faculty: 
Anup Malani
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Thomas J. Miles
Faculty: 
David A. Weisbach
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Richard A. Posner