One economist’s perspective on the law and economics movement

In this piece, from a CrookedTimber symposium, I stress that market-oriented economists are culturally and intellectually quite different from their counterparts in the legal side of academia:

One topic which interests me is how the “conservative” law and economics movement, as it is found in legal academia, differs from “market-oriented” economics, as it is found in the economics profession. The “right wing” economist and legal scholar will agree on many issues but you also will find fundamental variations in their temperament and political stances.

Market-oriented economists tend to be libertarian and it is rare that they have much respect for the U.S. Constitution beyond the pragmatic level. The common view is that while a constitution may be better than the alternatives, it is political incentives which really matter. James M. Buchanan’s program for a “constitutional economics” never quite took off and insofar as it did it has led to the analytic deconstruction of constitutions rather than their glorification. It isn’t hard to find libertarian economists who take “reductionist” views of constitutions and trumpet them loudly.

I also discuss my experiences teaching at GMU Law, why the law and economics movement grew so rapidly, and why the initially conservative nature of that movement is more or less over.  Read the whole thing.


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