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 39: Wilhelm Roscher (1817-94)

Erich Streissler


431 human diversity both in abilities and preferences will soon re-establish inequality of wealth. Therefore, in the course of economic development, all forms of communal property have been progressively shed. Basically, then, socialism is an attempt to return to economic primitivism. The proximity of Roscher’s argument to Hayek’s Road to Serfdom is evident. Roscher, who always sees countervailing forces as well, ends on another note, however. There is also another ‘no less important tendency’: in the course of economic development the demand for public goods also increases, and private property owners cause an increasing amount of external effects on others. Therefore the ‘realm of public responsibilities’ is also extended. Roscher sees no essential conflict between increasing property rights and at the same time an increasing provision of public goods and increasing controls in the interest of other private individuals. Typically of German 19th-century tradition and of Rau’s subtle reinterpretation of Adam Smith, the government of a liberal state to Roscher is also a strong government. Roscher’s analysis of socialism can be seen as an essay on the futility of legal establishments not supported by economic development. He repeats this theme again and again. The shaping of human behaviour and of legal arrangements by production conditions and social institutions While in his arguments on socialism he takes human motivation and behaviour as given and immutable relative to a mere change of property rights and rightly so in his historical framework of thought, which deals with a relatively short run analysis of...

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