Does Law and Economics Destroy Law Students’ Sense of Justice?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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4 Responses

  1. Anon YLS Student says:

    I read a draft of this paper recently. I shared several of the same basic concerns, though the results are really not of the sort that should make anyone nervous.

    A few things that puzzled me, based on experience with most of these professors:

    (1) Economics described as “ideology.” This is standard trope for Markovitz, though in a law school class it’s hard to classify teaching best-cost-avoider strict liability or optimal default rules as an exercise in self-interested ideology. In this setting, though, economics is better described as a logic, not an ideology. In other words, if there’s a legal rule or outcome that puzzles students with no substantive understanding of economics, they’ll at least see the logic underlying the reasoning (fallacious or not).

    (2) CLS & law/econ have similarly deconstructive bents–neither is particularly supportive of formalism. The only difference might be that CLS or humanist scholars happen to be, on the whole, farther left than law/econ types, and thus are more likely to emphasize redistributive goals–that is, those generally on par with how their students initially view the desirability of legal rules. The interesting story would be the causal mechanism.

    (3) Few, if any, of the law/econ profs ignore the “humanist” or CLS bent, and generally give it a stronger treatment in their classes than CLS/humanist professors give to law/econ. What does it say when students who are exposed to methodologies with which they’re less familiar, or which challenge their preexisting views, are more prone to become self-interested? I’d call that progress, not cause for being nervous. They’re probably just growing up.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    I also found the paper’s use of italics a bit bizarre. Also that the authors felt it was more significant, in context, that Hilary Clinton had attended YLS than that the President had taught at University of Chicago.

    Dave’s emphasis on efficiency arguments is a good example of economics as ideology, not “logic”. But it speaks well of you that you’re nervous about it.

  3. Not exactly a gripping read but I couldn’t help but enjoy the hand-wringing the authors employ at the end of the paper over the supposed impact of “economics” professors and then notice that the single most influential (by obs.)”economics” professor was liberal stalwart Judge Calabresi. heh heh