The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition
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The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

Social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key roles social values play in the economy and economic life. This second edition of the Elgar Companion to Social Economics revises all chapters from the first edition, and adds important new chapters to reflect the expansion and development of social economics. The expert contributions explain a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics in the field, mapping out possible directions of future social economic research. Social economics treats the economy and economics as embedded in a web of social and ethical relationships. It considers economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom, and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. This book will be a leading resource and guide to social economics for many years to come.
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Chapter 36: Securing an ethical foundation for law and social economics

Mark D. White


The economic approach to law, otherwise known as ‘law and economics’, is by many measures the most successful instance of economic imperialism, the application of economic principles to an ‘outside’ field. However, law and economics is very closely tied to traditional, neoclassical economics, in terms of both its consequentialist standard of efficiency, embodied (variously) in Pareto optimality and Kaldor–Hicks efficiency, and its utility-maximizing economic agent, his/her choices completely determined by his preferences and constraints. Most social economists take issue with these foundational concepts, both of which reflect a basic negligence of the humanity and dignity of the persons whose behavior economists model. This chapter will survey the existing social-economics work on law and economics, identify key issues social economists may have with the mainstream economic approach to law, and suggest three avenues for further work in this area by social economists.

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