A Critical Examination of the Normative Perspectives Implicit in the Work of the Founding Fathers of the Law and Economics Movement

Paul F. Sander

Advisor: Donald J Boudreaux, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Daniel Klein, David Levy

Online Location, #D150
April 22, 2020, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM


The economic approach to law (also called the law and economics movement) has been the most important contribution to jurisprudence of the last sixty years.  It has used the methods of economics to explain how the law has developed and has also applied economic concepts to prescribe how the law should develop.  There has, however, yet to emerge a consensus on the most preferred normative underpinnings of this application of economics to the law.  This dissertation is an effort to improve that condition.  The approach is to examine the normative underpinnings of the “founding fathers” of law and economics (several of the key scholars whose work initiated and developed law and economics from its early days) with a view to explaining the main ethical frameworks within which those scholars operated and to evaluate those frameworks. My claims are that these scholars fall into four main ethical camps (utilitarianism, Hobbesian contractarianism, Rawlsian social justice, and classical liberalism) and that the most promising ethical framework that has developed in law and economics thus far is classical liberalism, given its defense of individual rights, especially the right to property.