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

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-1000047926
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: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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The layman's view of law is that it has to do with justice, and the layman's view of Economics is that it has to do with who gets what. This is not correct. The early legal scholars, Grotius, Pufendorf, Locke and others, despite their disagreements, all stressed that property rights law was justified by the fact that an individual will not invest in the improvement of a valuable resource (land, idea, factory) unless he can expect to enjoy the fruits of this investment, and secure ownership is the best means of ensuring that this is the case. In other words, the legal institution of property rights served to improve economic efficiency, not justice. Or rather, as David Friedman would say, our ideas of the justice of property rights are the effect of the efficiency of the institution of property rights, and not vice versa.

Law's Order is a wonderful, exciting, and hugely informative book. It never lowers its standard of rigor (a very high standard), but avoids all mathematical modeling and never makes a silly argument simply because there is some outlandish economic model that supports it. One need not always agree with Friedman in order to appreciate the power of his argumentation and the limpidity of his writing.

The most important theoretical term that must be mastered is that of `economic efficiency.' The concept is not simple, and only by many varied examples will the reader come away with an appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of the concept. Basically, an economic arrangement is efficient if there is no alternative arrangement that can make all individuals, even those not participating directly in the arrangement better off according to their own preferences.
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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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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?
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