Edited by Ross B. Emmett
Chapter 11: Chicago Law and Economics
Steven G. Medema* Introduction The field of law and economics is arguably the most successful of economics’ various imperialistic movements, and this success has been driven largely by scholars from the University of Chicago and their protégés. If one spends much time examining the current literature in the field, including ‘surveys’ of law and economics and its development, one comes away with the distinct impression that the field is a post-1960 phenomenon, one that dates roughly from the founding of the Journal of Law & Economics (JL&E) in the late 1950s and the publication of Ronald Coase’s (1960) ‘The problem of social cost’. In fact, of course, law and economics, conceived of as the study of the interrelations between legal and economic processes, is as old as economics itself. The ancient Greeks, the scholastics, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Henry Sidgwick, the German Historical School, A.C. Pigou, and, inter alia, the early American institutionalists devoted significant attention to legal–economic relationships. Yet, the existence of this literature is noted only barely, if at all, in contemporary legal–economic scholarship, and, when taken note of, it is largely waved aside as something very different from (and irrelevant for) contemporary analysis. The first four decades of the twentieth century witnessed a surge of interest in law and economics within both the legal and economics communities, and the vast majority of this scholarship was of a form very different from that of contemporary law and economics – not just in the techniques brought...
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