Manne on Ideology and the Law-and-Economics Movement

14 May 2008 at 9:21 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

Josh Wright has written a thoughtful and informative series on the future of law and economics (1, 2, 3, 4). Key issues include the increasing formalism of L&E scholarship, the place of L&E within law schools (as opposed to economics departments), and the influence of L&E on legal practice and public policy.

The latest entry focuses on a response to Josh by Henry Manne, the founder of the modern law-and-economics movement (and, I might add, a regular reader of O&M). Manne argues that ideology, more than genuine scientific disagreement, explains the often-hostile reaction to L&E within the legal establishment, a theme we’ve explored in several posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

I think that the major issues are now, as they were fifty years ago, mainly ideological, and I believe that the causes forcing L&E out of the law schools today are the very same ones that operated to prevent my getting better jobs in the 1960s and for most senior law professors to think that what I was advocating was sheer nonsense, “to the right of Genghis Kahn,” as they used to be so stupidly amused at repeating ad nauseum. They were protecting their intellectual investment in skills and ideology against the threat of a new paradigm in which they could not share the rents, and I do believe that that is exactly what is still happening. While you and I see enormous social benefits from a legal system based on the idea of property rights and their protection, all they see is less role for the government and themselves. Perhaps this acts at an unconscious level, but it unmistakably is at work whatever the source of the peculiar leftist ideology of most academics.

What I am saying is that it is impossible to separate completely a discussion of the role of L&E in legal education from the ideological aspects of the subject. I honestly believe that at some level the turn of L&E to econometrics and empirical work is a flight from the implications of a thoroughgoing Alchianesque kind of economics. Perhaps that is even more clear with the current popularity of Behavioral Economics, and of late I even notice in the literature a somewhat open attack on the very idea of freedom of contract. I do not think these developments are accidental or random; I believe that they are inherent in the very structure of modern universities and law schools.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Classical Liberalism, Education, Institutions, Law and Economics.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe  |  14 May 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Professor Suri Ratnapala teaches Hayek to law students at the Uni of Queensland (Australia) and he think she is about the only law teacher in the country who is doing it. Lawyers have been one of the hardest occupational groups to recruit to the deregulation movement in Australia.

    The Liberal (Conservative) Students Federation and the Young Liberals (Conservatives) have a camaign on foot, following the US movement for academic fairness, to get better courses. Two decades it was practically impossible to find Hayek mentioned in Politics courses at the 21 universities, it will be interesting to find if anything has changed in the meantime.

  • 2. Rafe  |  14 May 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Sorry about the typos, Suri is a man!

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