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August 15, 2006

Comments

Mark Weinstein

I took Stigler 301 in the early 70's and I thought his best comment was the suggestion that each paper contain a footnote of the follwing form:

In conducting this research we ran 657 regressions, we present 4 of them in this paper.


This might go a long way to making us honest in interpreting p-values.

Keith Sharfman

That's a fair point. There is indeed a distinction between being a founder and being simply a contributor.

Stigler may be a founder not only of L&E but also of public choice. See his 1971 paper on The Economics of Regulation, which empirically documents the effect of industry lobbying on the content of legislation.

Josh Wright

Good point, Keith. And thank you all for the comments.

Just to clarify, I do not think that Posner *personally* underappreciates the value of Stigler's contributions. He is certainly aware of the importance of his contributions. Perhaps more so than most, as your citation evidence suggests. I am quite happy to concede that point. The reference to Posner is meant only to present some evidence that Stigler is rarely considered a "founder" of L&E (even by those who know and appreciate his work), a state of the world that I think is especially unfortunate given the growth of empirical L&E.

Keith Sharfman

Great post, Josh. Stigler is indeed important and indeed underappreciated by many. As to whether Posner is one of those who underappreciates him, I'd just note that the current edition of Economic Analysis of Law cites Stigler no fewer than 15 times (i.e., just as much as he cites Coase and many more times than he cites either Calabresi or Manne). The 1976 edition of Posner's book on Antitrust Law cites Stigler three times (as compared to Areeda once and Williamson once, the only other authors receiving an index entry). So, while I agree with your general thesis that Stigler is underappreciated in L&E, I don't think this criticism is fairly applied to Posner.

I have made an argument that is similar to yours about Charles Beard, whose 1913 work "An Economic Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution" is insufficiently appreciated as a precursor to modern L&E. And in this case, I do think it's fair to criticize Posner (and others who have applied economics to the Constitution) for ignoring Beard's important theoretical (even if empirically flawed) contribution to the field. See my essay "The First Economic Analyst of Law?," 6 Green Bag 2d 99 (2002).

Supremacy Claus

Coase has to answer for Pennzol v Texaco, a catastrophic failure of theory.

Here is an economic theory that has not failed in explaining, in predicting all lawyer actions, appellate decisions, legislation.

It is the Rent Seeking Theory.

William Henderson

Great post. I am glad I get some of the benefit of your Econ training. Many thanks, bh.

michael webster

1. The uncomfortable theoretical fact for law and economics is that maxizimation of a preference function is: a) the only light we have, and b) shines in very different and contrary areas.

2. Lawyering is primarily story telling: your story doesn't have to be true, it just has to be preferred by the trier of fact to the other fellow's story. There is, no systemic explanation of this preference relation. It is highly unlikely that the current theoretical constructs of preference are sufficient to illuminate the trier of facts' choice function.

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