The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics
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The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This authoritative and comprehensive reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant areas and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed but theoretically congruent ideas for the first time.
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Chapter 4: Family

Margaret Brinig


Ma rgaret B rinig Introduction The idea of thinking of families in economic terms is not new, but dates back at least to the time of Aristotle, whose Econczmeia meant ‘management of the household’ (Spiegel, 1983, p. 25) and whose views on affection between the generations are cited even today by law and economics scholars such as Richard Posner (Posner, 1996). The patriarchal family was used as a metaphor for the monarchial by William Filmer in the 17th century (Filmer, 1653)’ a theory debunked by John Locke, who, in writing his Second Treatise on Government (Locke, 1689, pp. 179-87), laid out much of the foundation for the later work of William Blackstone, a lawyer, whose contractarian notion of the implicit contract between parent and child appears in much of the law and economics literature on family relationships (Blackstone, 1765). Similarly, Hume’s writing about the need for marital exclusivity, particularly on the part of the wife, sounds an economic chord, for he bases his suggestion on the requirement of the husband to support the wife’s offspring. Another contractual writing about the family comes from Sir Matthew Hale, a British jurist whose statement about the impossibility of spousal rape stemmed from the wife’s having, by her marriage, given an irrevocable consent to intercourse with her husband. The 19th-century economic writings of British and American authors Harriet Martineau and Catharine Beecher relate women’s participation in the home economy to their political and social roles. Beecher’s A Treatise on Household Economy (1840) became...

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