It was chance that brought Peg Brinig to George Mason University School of Law, and curiosity that took her to a law-and-economics and then to empirical research. She realized that only the curious would be able to keep up to new things, and that law teaching, not journalism, was the profession of the curious.
At the time, it took not only curiosity, but also a certain measure of courage to embark on law and economics. Traditional legal scholars correctly surmised that it would shake up the discipline, and that is never a pleasant experience. Conservatives who were fond of saying things like, “But I see it from a moral point of view,” did not want to be told that their moralism might be assisted with an injection of price theory. Henry Manne himself had been condemned for what one reviewer called “his rather ostentatious amorality,” and for his failure to consider “such noneconomic goals as fairness, just rewards and integrity.” On the left, critical legal scholars agreed with law-and- economics academics that law was not an autonomous discipline, that legal rules could only be justified from outside the law, but recognized that law and economics would bolster conservative, free market principles, and wanted no part of it.
The resistance to law and economics was especially strong in the area of family law, in which Peg would specialize. Even people who were sympathetic to the economic analysis of tort and contract law turned up their noses when family structures were analyzed from an economic perspective by Gary Becker. Is nothing sacred? they asked. “Marriage is more than a contract,” they said, “it is a covenant.” The marriage bond would necessarily be threatened, were it subjected to the morals of the marketplace. But on the closer analysis Peg gave it, it became clear that the economic analysis of family law served to strengthen conservative intuitions about the family.
The Place of Empirical Studies,
Notre Dame L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndlr/vol95/iss4/3