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The Economics of Justice
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although denied by the author in his book 'Problems of Jurisprudence,' Richard Posner was an integral early pioneer in the movement known as 'Economics and Law.' Picking up where George Stigler and Gary Becker left off, Posner argues that not only human behavior, but law can be understood by the theory of wealth-maximization. This is the philosophy that individuals act in a way that will maximize their benefit (the results of their action) while minimizing cost (energy, time etc. expended in action.) While my review is necessarily simplified, Posners audience is in for a well-made case.
After his case is made, he moves on to offer a hypothesis of how law may have developed in primitive societies against this backdrop of wealth-maximization. I've read several authors attempts to 'create' a state (Rousseau, Locke, Nozick) and to my eyes, Posners is the most convincing. Let's see what you think!
The third section applies wealth-maximization to privacy and discrimination laws. It is here that Posner is the most likely to disturb. For example, he distinguishes between privacy as seclusion and privacy as secrecy. Privacy as secrecy, Posner argues, is not only inconsistent with constitutional text but is not much more than the right to be able to distort information (whether by omission or declaration) to present and future transactors. This, in turn, distorts the 'market-place' of information and is inconsistent (a slippery slope) with the wealth-maximization of society.
Whether you agree or disagree with Posner, his intellect is undeniable, his thesis, original and his writing, first rate. Should be read by anyone interested in jurisprudence, politics, economics and psychology.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Posner's "Economics of Justice" is still a fascinating read, almost two decades after its first publication. In particular, the first half of the book, which attempts (I think quite successfully) to carve out a middle ground of "ethical wealth maximization" between the 'poles' of Kantian ethics and utilitarian thought, is quite good. I am not always convinced that wealth maximization as a juridical norm in fact escapes the strictures and failures of utilitatarian thought, but Posner's philosophy and economics approach to the law demonstrates quite conclusively that economic thought has much to say about issues of justice. More broadly, Posner's lucid arguments dispel some of the many myths and critiques (some by people who do not understand economics) which contend that economics either oversimplifies or commodifies too much of human experience. What is needed is an update to this work, and more generally, a stronger outpouring of philosophical explanation from other economics-minded scholars such as Posner, to respond to the many socio-cultural legal critiques of law and economics. Overall, though, an excellent read; and although one need not agree with all of Posner's conclusions, the ideas are well worth examining.
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on January 5, 2015
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Fun book
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0 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
1981 Harvard University Press book which I found while bookshop browsing. It has discussions on Homeric society, and such phenomena as honor killings - they can work, because relatives of a killer may well hand the killer over rather than risk endless attacks. I thought it might be interesting. On examination, this book is part of the dominant strand in US law, which unfortunately is dominated by Jews. It may be worth reading on that account, though some effort is needed to tease out all the strands.

There are four very unequally sized parts, nomially on 1 Justice and Efficiency (largely a thumb-through of old disputes about utilitarianism and Bentham); 2 The Origins of Justice; 3 Privacy and related Interests; 4 The Supreme Court and discrimination (automatically assumed against blacks).

Just a few notes. Posner is absurdly naive about prices: if someone pays for anything, it must be worth the money paid - he has examples mostly to do with oranges and tomatoes, possibly to hide his assumptions. He naturally assumes justice many millennia ago must be 'primitive'. In fact, it's perfectly *possible* that in such societies 'justice' was in fact better than now - but he's a circuit judge, so he's not going there. Posner gives no consideration whatever to problems such as possible damaging effects when (e.g.) lawyers collude. On 'privacy', most people know roughly what they mean; but Posner instantly morphs into secrecy. 'Privacy' is not the same as keeping secrets, though it is for crooks. This of course is an aspect of the bogus 'human rights' legislation, from which lawyers have profited so abundantly. On discrimination, he assumes, with no evidence pro or con, that blacks (who are always assumed to be 'minorities' - he doesn't consider black countries with white elites, or black elites for that matter) are discriminated against, and moreover are otherwise indistinguishable from whites.

I won't say more, though there's enough. The book is badly written, despite having several pages' worth of help from 'more people than I can hope to mention'. Some readers might dig up a copy and muse on it, and on the state of law in the USA.
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