Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Francesco Parisi and Giampaolo Frezza It has now become a question of style for American authors to list Cesare Beccaria among the forerunners of the economic analysis of criminal law,1 with speciﬁc reference to the work entitled Dei delitti e delle pene (On crimes and punishments) (1764).2 Beccaria was born in Milan, Italy to a wealthy aristocratic family. He studied at a private college in Parma and graduated from the University of Pavia Law School at the age of 20. During his lifetime Beccaria held leading administrative posts in the Council of Lombardy and served as provincial magistrate, while remaining an active member of cultural circles and a proponent of legislative reform. Beccaria’s theories of social welfare In the history of economic thought, Beccaria is occasionally included among the fathers of modern utilitarianism. Scholars have debated the appropriateness of such inclusion, given the frequent use of contractarian theories in his work. Beccaria’s work shows that utilitarian theories can be built on contractarian premises, and his combined use of contrasting paradigms proves that the two perspectives can successfully coexist. According to some scholars, Beccaria utilized a hypothetical contractarian framework to justify the purely utilitarian choices of positive law. In reality, he successfully combined the utilitarian and contractarian perspectives into a single coherent framework. In this respect, contractarianism helped him avoid the paradoxes of pure utilitarianism. Additionally, Beccaria provided a powerful inspiration to Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian approach to social welfare, yet anticipating the more modern contractarian justiﬁcation of...
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