The following online course has just been added to our list of approved Law-related Liberal Arts courses for the Legal Studies major:
Econ 397LE: Law and Economics
Law and economics addresses the economic motivation for legal practice and the economic implications of different legal regimes. Law and economics is often taught based on the assumption that legal rules are and should be designed to maximize “efficiency,” often understood as some variant of cost-benefit analysis or welfare-maximization. The best legal system is therefore, under this view, one that responds to impersonal factors, a society’s factor endowments and production technology. Our approach is different, because we recognize that legal systems are the product of political processes, shaped by the distribution of political and economic power, and with goals that go beyond maximizing output course to include the shaping of power within society. The question then becomes whether the concept of “efficiency” can be as uncritically applied to legal rules as the field of law and economics often suggests.
We begin by exploring the relationship between a society and its legal system. While some treat this as the relationship between a society’s economic substructure and its legal superstructure, we recognize that political and cultural relationships also have independent effects on the development of the economy and of the legal system. We then focus critically on the question of efficiency, and on what sorts of limitations might be presented by the concept in its application to the law, drawing in part on the perspective offered by critical legal studies. We then investigate different approaches to law and economics, apart from efficiency, including static theories of “original intent” and “individual rights,” as well as sociological theories where the law is a changing system to facilitate different social ends, a fair distribution of income, protection of the environment, and other ends.
Prerequisites for this class are either Econ 103, or Res-Econ 102.
This class was developed by Mark Silverman (graduate student in Economics and Attorney at Law) in consultation with Professor Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an experienced teacher, renowned economic historian, author of many articles and books, and an editor of the journal Labor History.
This online course in Law and Economics is offered by the Department of Economics through the Office of Continuing and Professional Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Questions? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.