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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Prior to 1960, legal scholars invoked economics only in a handful of specialized contexts -- mostly antitrust and taxation. But it was not generally thought that economic science had much of anything useful to say about the law generally.

Then, in the early 1960s, Guido Calabresi and Ronald Coase published a couple of papers that a lot of people found pretty darned interesting.

Richard Posner was one of those people. Within about a decade thereafter, he had written a massive treatise-textbook that attempted to apply (Chicago-school) economic insights to almost the entirety of the law, in part relying on Calabresi's insights on risk allocation and Coase's famous theorem about what happens in a world with no transaction costs.

That treatise-textbook is now in its fifth edition, and you're looking at the Amazon page for it. It would be hard to name a more influential work in the field of law and economics -- and even today, as Posner himself will gladly tell you, although there are a few other _textbooks_ on the topic, there are still no other _treatises_.

Posner's scope is breathtaking. Not content to limit himself to the usual array of legal topics (property, torts, contracts, criminal law, legal procedure, and so forth), he also manages to devote portions of his text to, e.g., sex and marriage, surrogate motherhood, prostitution, homosexuality, and a host of other controversial and/or marginal topics you don't typically encounter in an economics text.

The typical reader will probably not find him altogether persuasive on these topics. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll probably wind up shaking your head in sheer wonderment: how is it possible for someone to be so brilliantly incisive on one page and so infuriatingly obtuse on the next?

But don't assume Posner is the one who's wrong. Don't misunderstand me; I think he _is_ sometimes the one who's wrong. But even then, his arguments are something to be reckoned with, not to be easily dismissed. (Nor is he _ever_ simply "obtuse.")

For the most part I think the book is a success in its more modest aim. In the fifth edition, Posner ends his opening chapter with a short reply to critics of the law and economics movement; with much of what he has to say here I can wholeheartedly agree. His work should, as he notes, be of _some_ interest to anyone who thinks Kaldor-Hicks efficiency/potential Pareto improvement plays any role whatsoever in setting policies. (I don't personally think it plays or should play much role at all, but I can agree with the point as Posner has stated it.) And Posner notes, quite unobjectionably, that the entire field should not be rejected merely because one does not accept the views of its most aggressive exponents.

But make no mistake, Posner _is_ one of its most aggressive exponents, and the apparent modesty of his aims is somewhat disingenuous: he is not merely trying to find out what economics can say about the law but to tell us that it can say quite a lot indeed. And it is here that I find him ultimately unconvincing on a number of points.

(To take one well-known example, I don't think Posner's discussion of the famous "Hand formula" captures what Judge Billings Learned Hand meant by it, and at any rate the formula is not as useful as Posner seems to think it is. There is some good discussion of the Hand formula by Richard Wright in _Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law_, and in general Posner has been roundly and in some respects successfully criticized by a wide range of scholars from Ronald Dworkin to Gary Schwartz.)

But there is no getting around this massive work, and it absolutely cannot be lightly dismissed. On the contrary, the thing bristles with fine insights and obviously massive legal and economic erudition; most of it will repay close reading even for the reader who ends up disagreeing. If you have any interest in the field of law and economics, you really ought to read this book _sometime_.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
this is one of the most original and groundbreaking pieces of legal literature in history...Posner, one of the founders of the "chicago school" of law & economics applies the principles of ecomonics to analyze the entrire legal system from basic rules to underlying principles
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on January 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Economic Analysis of Law is beyond critics. It's a classic in the literature of Law and Economics, a true required reading. It combines a large perspective of subjects in Law and Economics with the right level of depth.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
An apparently untouched item in perfect condition. There are absolutely no signs of wear on the book. I indicate this website.Thanks.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2015
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
its ok
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5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Bought this for a law and econ class in law school - one that supposedly didn't require an econ background. This book belies that claim. I started reading and spent more time looking up econ terms and phrases than I actually did reading. I'm not sure this book has much value for the average layperson, but perhaps it gets better and clearer after the introduction and first few chapters - I dropped the class and returned the book before I got there. I love Posner's holdings when he writes for the court - but this book was awfully dense.
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3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Although the economic theories used by Posner are for the most part sound, nevertheless, he lacks a more realistic approach to the problems presented in this book. For example, in the real world we CANNOT ignore transaction costs in all cases. Also, not all laypeople know the law as well as Mr. Posner. Overall, I do recommend reading this book, it will undoubtly stimulate your mind!
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6 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anyone interested in Economic Analysis of Law should have this book of "legendary" Posner
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11 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
First of all, the law and economics movement did not originate with Richard Posner. To his credit, he does reference the men who collectively formulated the modern utilitarian theory called "law and economics." Pay attention to the enormous amount of spelling errors and poor syntax in the first edition. The book seems like it was rushed to the presses in order to capitalize on something.

Posner makes several invalid claims, the chief of which states that judge made law followed the logic of the law and economic movement. That is, judges allegedly were concerned with maximizing in utilitarian fashion the distribution of wealth to its most productive use. When he thinks the courts should honor efficient breaches, he contradicts this former thesis since it only proves judges don't act "entirely" in a utilitarian fashion.

I think there is some merit to this law and economic position with regard to contracts, which is why I predicate the above sentence with "entirely." With regard to contracts, the courts definitely have an economic incentive in addressing damages. However, with regard to torts or criminal law or other areas of law, the economic incentive wanes in significance. It waxes in significance only with contracts because contracts is a business as usual enterprise.

Overall, the law as developed by common law judges is deontological, not utilitarian. The word "deon" is Greek and means "duty." In theories of ethics, we refer to a theory as deontological when the theory mandates that we judge decisions according to how they conform with a prescribed duty. In contrast, consequentialism mandates that we judge actions according to their consequences (in other words, the ends justify the means). Situation ethics mandates that moral principles should change in order to accomodate the change in circumstances. Deontological ethics mandates that a change in circumstances does not permit a modification of moral principle. Modern ethicists like John Rawls state in utilitarian fashion that our decisions should maximize the good. Who defines the good? Aretaic theories stress not consequences or duty or the good but rather the individuals appropriation of good "character." "Arete" in Greek means "virtue" or "excellence in character." Aristotle was aretaic. Decisions should be made to cultivate and create good character. If they do this, they are good decisions. Deontology says that decisions can be wrong even if the consequences are good, even if good character results and even if there is a change of circumstances that makes the duty seem incorrect in application.

The logic of the common law has always been deontological. The modern utilitarian theory of law and economics does shed light on how common law judges formed their opinions in contract law, but in all other branches of law it is grossly incorrect and is a gross anachronism to posit that common law judges were Pareto Superior in their other decision making.

Most false theories are based on exchanging "both/and" for "either/or." It would be incorrect to say that contracts was either deontological or utilitarian (law and economics type of utilitarian). Therefore, Posner says a half truth when he says contracts is law and economics type of thinking. It is both deontological and law and economics, since both logics have played a role in judicial decisions. However, it is primarily deontological as shown by the fact that even modern judges refuse to honor efficient breaches of contract. Law and economic type of thinking operated as a lemma in indented proof when judges made their deontological decisions. After evaluating the relationship between the rights and duties of a particular case, they wouldn't go overboard and give the winning party in a contract action a windfall. To prevent windfalls and other ways of going overboard, judges would try to be economically efficient. Jurisprudence is making prudent judgments on legal matters. It is pathetic that a 7th Circuit judge like Posner has such poor judgment with regard to saying what the law is. The public can think that neo-conservative moron George Bush for appointing this moron to the 7th Circuit court.
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5 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is for law school or same grade school text book. This book entails everything happended in law and economics. So if you have any interest law and economics, it will be a great experience to know this book, but if not , this will be some bored to kill job.
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