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60 Law and Contemp. Probs. 97 (1997)


Modern economic analysis owes too much to the conceit of Bentham and his followers in their arrogant reliance on disembodied reason. In fact, they have "shaped the course of law reform" for large segments of the modern world; unfortunately, they "neglected all the complex social evolution which ... [went into] the making of... [that] world and individuals" in it; and for that "reason..., they considered that the study of history was a matter of minor importance." Bentham and his many followers too often tend to rely on a handful of assumptions and reason alone–coupled with a veneer of mathematics–to describe and predict the course of the complex processes of human society.

I do not deny the explanatory or predictive power of economic analysis, or its necessity, if we are effectively to intervene in the world of action–by law or otherwise. I am arguing only that economic analysis must be substantially supplemented by other insights, perhaps from history or ethics. Admittedly, economic analysis says little about ethics beyond pricing. In short, economic analysis often knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.


Reprinted with permission of Law and Contemporary Problems.

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