Early last month, in my first guest post on Concurring Opinions, I posted some comments about the differences between the ways economists and lawyers think about problems. Today, in my last guest post, I return to the subject of lawyers and economists.
While any observation about the mindsets of lawyers and economists (or anyone else, for that matter) surely oversimplifies, I noted in my earlier post that — based on my experiences both as an economics professor and as a law professor — each profession seems to instill certain tendencies in its practitioners. While lawyers seem to take an all-or-nothing approach to problems (leading them too often to reject useful partial solutions because “that won’t solve the problem”), economists come to believe their models just a bit too much. On the latter point, Alan Greenspan’s recent testimony before Congress to the effect that he has been in “shocked disbelief” at the failure of his long-held model of how the economy works (unregulated markets will lead to good results) has shown the potentially enormous negative consequences of the economist’s default mindset.
Beyond the tendencies that are drilled into members of the two professions (or which, perhaps, lead to self-selection into the two professions), a more interesting question is what lawyers and economists actually do. More precisely, when we have a public policy problem, how do the skill sets of lawyers and economists determine their respective usefulness in dealing with the problem? Again, I make no claim that