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Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691090092
ISBN-10: 0691090092
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Friedman, a professor at the University of Santa Clara School of Law who holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, advocates an economic analysis of law and further suggests that there is a strong correspondence between efficiency and justice. Since efficiency is the foundation of modern economics, he argues, economics can be used to explain and shape the law in ways that can benefit us all. Especially insightful is the author's application of this theory to tort and contract law, which impose obligations based upon law and mutual consent, respectively. Friedman delineates formulae for dispute resolution in these and other areas of the law. His approach is modeled upon the teachings of noted British economist Ronald Coase, whose theorem on transaction costs has formed the basis for analysis of economic problems arising from tort and contract litigation for the last 40 years. The book's specialized audience includes students of law and economics served by academic and law libraries and perhaps private firm libraries whose staff serve client needs in the two aforementioned areas of litigation.
-Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., New York
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author sets out to provide an economic analysis of law. We learn that economics, whose fundamental issue is the implications of rational choice, is an essential tool for figuring out the effects of legal rules. Knowing what effects rules will have is central both to understanding the rules we have and to deciding what rules we should have. The first section of the book considers basic economic concepts, such as rationality and economic efficiency, that can be used to understand a wide range of legal issues. The book's second section applies economics to the analysis of the core areas of law, such as intellectual property and contracts. Friedman, a law school professor and economist, states that his target reader for this book is an intelligent layman, followed by law professionals and students. Another view is that this is really a textbook in disguise, which will be used primarily in the classroom by the author and other law professors. Mary Whaley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691090092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691090092
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an academic economist currently employed as a law professor, although I have never taken a course for credit in either field. My specialty, insofar as I have one, is the economic analysis of law, the subject of my book _Law's Order_.

In recent years I have created and taught two new law school seminars at Santa Clara University. One was on legal issues of the 21st century, discussing revolutions that might occur as a result of technological change over the next few decades. Interested readers can find its contents in the manuscript of _Future Imperfect_, linked to my web page. Topics included encryption, genetic engineering, surveillance, and many others. The other seminar, which I am currently teaching, is on legal systems very different from ours. Its topics included the legal systems of modern gypsies, Imperial China, Ancient Athens, the Cheyenne Indians, ... . My web page has a link to the seminar web page.

I have been involved in recreational medievalism, via the Society for Creative Anachronism, for over thirty years. My interests there include cooking from medieval cookbooks, making medieval jewelery, telling medieval stories around a campfire creating a believable medieval islamic persona and fighting with sword and shield.

My involvement with libertarianism goes back even further. Among other things I have written on the possibility of replacing government with private institutions to enforce rights and settle disputes, a project sometimes labelled "anarcho-capitalism" and explored in my first book, _The Machinery of Freedom_, published in 1972 and still in print.

My most recent writing project is my first novel, _Harald_. Most of my interests feed into it in one way or another, but it is intended as a story, not a tract on political philosophy, law or economics. It is not exactly a fantasy, since there is no magic, nor quite a historical novel, since the history and geography are invented. The technology and social institutions are based on medieval and classical examples, with one notable exception.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Steckbeck on August 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
David Friedman presents a well organized, clear and concise treatise of Law and Economics from a positive perspective. This book is orgainzed into twenty-two chapters dealing with everything from the efficiency of law to antitrust enforcement. Friedman uses excellent examples and writes in a clear manner making this book easily understood by the layman, first year law students or undergraduate economics students.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. Husman on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
As soon as I was finished with this book, I turned around and read it again. Friedman is picking up a theme that he introduced towards the end of the revised Machinery of Freedom, in which he states that in order to understand certain mechanisms, we must undertake the economic analysis of law. This discipline was generally considered to have been initiated by Ronald Coase and taken up and popularized by Richard Posner. Friedman's own work advances the study into areas of law that relate to the internet and computers.
This particular book, however, concentrates on advancing the work done by Posner to a wider audience. Posner's perspective is that of a very, very talented legal theorist attempting to apply economic tools to law; Friedman's is that of a very talented economist applying his own discipline to law.
The complete book is available online; in fact the book was intended to be an off-line anchor for a number of other links. Friedman does away with references to landmark cases, mathematics, and other references in the book, and moves them all to the online version. While it seemed like a good idea at thte time, I ultimately found it to be annoying.
I would say that this is the first book I've read that connects technical economic ideas - like efficiency, the Coase Theorem, externalities, and rent-seeking - to the real world with practical applications.
Like whether or not voodoo practice should be punishable as attempted murder (huh? Read the book - this and other stories are both entertaining and enlightening).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
At the outset, I must acknowledge that this proved to be one of the most challenging books I have read in recent years. (You can thus understand why it was also among the most thought-provoking books I have read in recent years.) The subtitle informed me that Friedman would explain "what economics has to do with law and why it matters." In the Introduction, he observes:
"The legal rules that we are most familiar with are laws created by legislatures and enforced by courts and police. But even in our society much of the law is the creation of not of legislatures but of judges, embedded in past precedences that determine how future cases will be decided; much enforcement of the law is by private parties such as tort victims and their lawyers rather than by police; and substantial bodies of legal rules take the form, not the laws, but of private norms, privately enforced."
Friedman helps his reader to "understand various systems of legal rules by asking what consequences they will produce in a world in which rational individuals adjust their actions to the legal rules they face." He cites two possible objectives of the economic approach to achieve such understanding the logic of law: the law may have no logic to understand or the law does have a logic "but that it is, or at least ought to be, concerned not with economic efficiency but with justice." These are indeed critically important issues. How to address them? Friedman does so with an economic analysis of the law in terms of both economic ideas and areas of the law. First, he examines basic economic concepts (e.g.) "that can be used to to understand a wide range of legal issues. Then he shifts his attention to various questions raised what that examination reveals. For example: Why do other legal systems differ so much from ours?
Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book, as its title suggests, is on the ECONOMICS of law. And as Dr. Friedman skillfully illustrates in the text, economics has a great deal to say about both the theory and application of law. In particular anyone interested in understanding how modern systems of law arose will find fascinating information in this book that isn't often discussed in your run-of-the-mill law, history, or economics courses. This is just the sort of information that is important to achieving a better understanding of the structure of legal systems, yet is, perhaps necessarily, left out of most courses in law (or history or economics) because it doesn't neatly fit into any one category.
The use of economic tools and ideas to analyze and understand legal systems is a relatively new idea. Yet as you'll discover when reading this book, it is a very GOOD idea. One that yields immediate and satisfying results. The book places modern legal systems in their proper historical context. It compares private and public methods of handling a variety of legal issues and disputes.
What does economics have to do with law? Suppose legislators propose that armed robbers receive life imprisonment. Editorial pages applaud them for getting tough on crime. Constitutional lawyers raise the issue of cruel and unusual punishment. Legal philosophers ponder questions of justness. An economist, on the other hand, observes that making the punishment for armed robbery the same as that for murder encourages the muggers to kill their victims (since they are less likely to be caught if there are no surviving witnesses). This is the cut-to-the-chase quality that makes economics not only applicable to the interpretation of law, but beneficial to its crafting.
Buy this book or steal your friend's copy. It, along with David Friedman's other works, are well worth reading.
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