Handbook on Law, Innovation and Growth

Handbook on Law, Innovation and Growth

Elgar original reference

Edited by Robert E. Litan

A central goal of any economy is to achieve rapid and sustained growth. This cannot happen without continued innovation. This landmark Handbook brings together many of the world’s legal scholars to examine features of the legal infrastructure that affect both innovation and growth. Individual chapters explore different legal subject areas, in most cases offering recommendations for rule changes that could accelerate growth, primarily in the context of the US economy. The introductory chapter provides a framework for these discussions and explains why it is time for legal scholarship and research to move in that direction.

Chapter 1: Is the Law Dynamically Efficient?

Robert E. Litan

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, economics and finance, economics of innovation, innovation and technology, economics of innovation


Robert E. Litan1 Arguably the most important intellectual development in legal scholarship and judicial decision-making over the past four decades has been the increasing use of economic modes of analysis in legal reasoning. From its initial use in antitrust law, where the relevant statutory language on its face had economic content, ‘law and economics’ has since spread into virtually every nook and cranny of the law. Every revolution, in thought and action, must start somewhere, and ‘law and economics’ is no exception. Its first practitioners sought to rationalize or encourage legal rules that promoted what economists call ‘static efficiency’ – or the allocation of resources that maximize the size of an economy at any given point in time. Initially, this meant that rules should be designed so that no person or firm could be made better off without making another worse off (‘Pareto efficiency’). This objective was broadened to setting rules that maximized the size of the economic pie regardless of who won and who lost, provided that there were sufficient gains from adopting a new rule or institution to more than compensate the losers (‘Kaldor-Hicks efficiency’). Many insights were developed from this simple objective or premise. Even before modern ‘law and economics’ had been ‘invented’ or given a name, Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase demonstrated that in the absence of transactions costs, assignment of legal property rights had no impact on the socially efficient outcome because post-assignment bargaining would produce the right result (though the distributional impact of rights assignments would...

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