In the preceding pages we have tried to show, visiting a number of core areas of civil law systems, that the economic analysis of law offers interesting insights to civil lawyers as much as it does to common lawyers. It offers tools to trace the effects of particular rules and facilitates the lawyer’s judgement on whether these rules ‘make sense’ in the light of these effects. Such reasoning allows one to consider whether rules different from the ones we have would make sense, to ‘think the unthinkable’. In this, law and economics joins hands with comparative law. This calculus can be used in reverse: to understand why historically particular rules made sense to those who adopted them. Here law and economics joins hands with legal history in trying to understand why our ancestors, acting rationally, made the rules they did. Using such reasoning on current law, one can group together rules whose apparent mission is to correct similar problems, such as dealing with forms of opportunism, and consider to what extent they are substitutes or expressions of a common underlying more general concept. It can do this within a national system, but also in a comparative exercise with concepts used in other systems. Law and economics provides here a functional language that is useful in comparing laws.
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