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Economic Analysis of the Law: Selected Readings


Providing students with a solid grounding in the economic analysis of the law, this reader brings together diverse and challenging journal articles into a unified collection. Chosen to provoke thought and discussion, these carefully streamlined articles apply economic theories to many aspects of the law, from intellectual property, corporate finance, and contracts to property rights, family law, and criminal law.

Most of the formal mathematics has been removed, allowing these articles to reach a student audience, while also encouraging an intuitive understanding and application of the economic principles. Brief introductions to each article explain their background and context. This collection will be a valuable addition to courses in both economics and law, providing economics majors with a respite from dry theory, and giving law students a broad, unified vision of the law.

Donald A. Wittman is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His articles have been published in top legal, economic, and political science journals, and he has published two books, The Myth of Democratic Failure (1995) and The Federalist Papers: The New Institutionalism and the Old (co-edited with B. Grofman, 1989).


Part I: Coase Theorem.

1. "The Problem of Social Cost" (Ronald H. Coase).

2. "The Cost of Coase" (Robert Cooter).

Part II: Property Rights, Liability Rules and Regulation.

3. "Property Rules, Liability Rules and Inalienability: One View from the Cathedral" (Guido Calabresi and A. Douglas Melamed).

4. "Economic Theory of Liability Rules" (John Brown).

5. "Unity in Tort, Contract and Property: The Model of Precaution" (Robert Cooter).

6. "Coming to the Nuisance" (Donald Wittman).

7. "Liability for Harm versus Regulation of Safety" (Steven Shavell).

Part III: Intellectual Property.

8. "Mistake, Disclosure, Information and the Law of Contracts" (Anthony T. Kronman).

9. "An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law" (William M. Landes and Richard Posner).

10. "Authors' and Artists Moral Rights: A Comparative Legal and Economic Analysis" (Henry Hansmann and Marina Santilli).

Part IV: Contracts and Warranties.

11. "A Theory of the Consumer Product Warranty" (George L. Priest).

12. "Fixed Price versus Spot Price Contracts: A Study in Risk Allocation" (A. Mitchell Polinsky).

13. "The Theory of the Firm and the Structure of the Franchise Contract (Paul H. Rubin).

14. "Transaction Cost Determinants of Unfair Contractural Arrangements" (Benjamin Klein).

15. "The Law and Economics Approach to Contract Theory" (Alan Scwartz).

Part V: Corporations and Corporate Finance.

16. "Limited Liability in the Theory of the Firm" (Susan E. Woodward).

17. "Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure” (Michael C. Jensen and William H. Meckling).

18. "State Law, Shareholder Protection and the Theory of the Corporation" (Ralph K. Winter).

19. "The Proper Role of a Target's Management in Responding to a Tender Offer" (Frank H. Easterbrook and Daniel R. Fischel).

20. "The Regulation of Insider Trading" (Dennis W. Carlton and Daniel R. Fischel).

21. "Corporate Reorganizations and the Treatment of Diverse Ownership Interests: A Comment on Adequate Protection of Secured Creditors in Bankruptcy" (Douglas G. Baird and Thomas H. Jackson).

Part VI: Family Law.

22. "The Economics of the Baby Shortage" (Elisabeth M. Landes and Richard A. Posner).

23. "A Market for Babies" (J. Robert S. Prichard).

24. "Marriage, Divorce and Quasi-rents: Or I gave him the best year of my life" (Lloyd Cohen).

Part VII: Crime and Criminal Law.

25. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach" (Gary S. Becker).

26. "Blackmail, Privacy and Freedom of Contract" (Richard A. Posner).

Part VIII: Norms.

27. "Property Rights in Aboriginal Societies" (Martin J. Bailey).

28. "Property in Land" (Robert C. Ellickson).

29. "Efficient Rules of Thumb in Highway Safety and Sports Activity" (Donald Wittman).

30. "Rings and Promises" (Margaret F. Brinig).