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As used by lawyers and legal scholars, the phrase "law and economics" refers
to the application of microeconomic analysis to legal problems. Because of the
overlap between legal systems and political systems, some of the issues in law
and economics are also raised in political economy, constitutional economics and
Approaches to the same issues from Marxist and critical theory/Frankfurt School perspectives usually do not identify themselves as "law and economics". For example, research by members of the critical legal studies movement and the sociology of law considers many of the same fundamental issues as does work labeled "law and economics".
The one wing that represents a non-neoclassical approach to "law and economics" is the Continental (mainly German) tradition that sees the concept starting out of the governance and public policy (Staatswissenschaften) approach and the German Historical school of economics; this view is represented in the Elgar Companion to Law and Economics (2nd ed. 2005) and¡ªthough not exclusively¡ªin the European Journal of Law and Economics. Here, consciously non-neoclassical approaches to economics are used for the analysis of legal (and administrative/governance) problems.
Harold Luhnow, the head of the ardently libertarian Volker Fund, not only financed Friedrich von Hayek in the U.S. starting in 1946, but he shortly thereafter financed Aaron Director¡¯s coming to the University of Chicago in order to set up there a new center for ¡°pro-market¡± scholars in law and economics. The University was headed by pro-corporate Robert Maynard Hutchins, a close collaborator of Luhnow¡¯s in setting up this ¡°Chicago School.¡± The University already had Frank Knight, George Stigler, Henry Simons, and Ronald Coase ¨C a strong base of libertarian scholars. Soon, it would also have not just Hayek himself, but Director¡¯s brother-in-law and Stigler¡¯s friend Milton Friedman, and also Robert Fogel, Robert Lucas, Eugene Fama, Richard Posner, and Gary Becker. The historians Robert van Horn and Philip Mirowski described these developments, in their ¡°The Rise of the Chicago School of Economics¡± chapter in The Road from Mont Pelerin (2009); and historian Bruce Caldwell (a great admirer of von Hayek) filled in more details of the account in his chapter, ¡°The Chicago School, Hayek, and Neoliberalism,¡± in Building Chicago Economics (2011). Van Horn (a Hayek critic) filled in yet more details of this history in a Seattle University Law Review article (¡°Chicago¡¯s Shifting Attitude Toward Concentrations of Business Power 1934-1962¡±) explaining how the influence of Luhnow and other corporate funders wrenched the Chicago School away from its predecessors¡¯ common support for anti-trust. Van Horn argues that the opposition to antitrust, and the acceptance of corporate monopoly power and control by oligopolies (such as Germany¡¯s and Italy¡¯s fascists had always supported), which came to be championed by Robert Bork and others at Chicago, had their actual origins in America¡¯s corporate boardrooms.
In 1958, Director founded the Journal of Law & Economics, which he co-edited with Nobel laureate Ronald Coase, and which helped to unite the fields of law and economics with far-reaching influence. In 1962, he helped to found the Committee on a Free Society. Director's appointment to the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School in 1946 began a half-century of intellectual productivity, although his reluctance about publishing left few writings behind. He taught antitrust courses at the law school with Edward Levi, who eventually would serve as Dean of Chicago¡¯s Law School, President of the University of Chicago, and as U.S. Attorney General in the Ford administration. After retiring from the University of Chicago Law School in 1965, Director relocated to California and took a position at Stanford University¡¯s Hoover Institution. He died September 11, 2004, at his home in Los Altos Hills, California, ten days before his 103rd birthday.
In the early 1970s, Henry Manne (a former student of Coase) set out to build a center for law and economics at a major law school. He began at Rochester, worked at Miami, but was soon made unwelcome, moved to Emory, and ended up at George Mason. The latter soon became a center for the education of judges¡ªmany long out of law school and never exposed to numbers and economics. Manne also attracted the support of the John M. Olin Foundation, whose support accelerated the movement. Today, Olin centers (or programs) for Law and Economics exist at many universities. Download