Law and Economism

James Kwak

Abstract


Classical law and economics was the most important movement in legal scholarship in the past half century, producing innovative new approaches to many subjects such as antitrust, torts, and contracts. It also had tremendous influence outside the academy by reshaping the way many judges interpreted the law. As a historical phenomenon, law and economics was part of the larger story of economism—the belief that simplistic economic models accurately describe reality and should serve as the basis for policy. Law and economics, like economism in general, was cultivated and propagated by conservative foundations and think tanks. It paid off by providing a conceptual vocabulary that judges could use to advance various conservative causes, such as limiting plaintiffs’ rights and rolling back government regulations.

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