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Legal System Problems and Solutions Discussed in New Book

Adam Summers
June 12, 2010, 3:18pm

I am pleased to announce the publication of a book to which I contributed called The Pursuit of Justice: Law and Economics of Legal InstitutionsHere is a synopsis of the book from the Independent Institute, which published the book with Palgrave Macmillan (see the link for a more detailed description with chapter summaries):

Judges, lawyers, juries, police, forensic experts, and others who work in the legal system respond to incentives. As in business and politics, incentives shape the outcomes of the legal system: they can either support the pursuit of justice—or they can undermine it, leading to wrongful convictions, frivolous lawsuits, higher attorney fees, restricted access to the courts, political interference, and government corruption. To improve our legal system significantly we must therefore first seek to understand precisely how our institutions structure the incentives that decision-makers face.

The Pursuit of Justice: Law and Economics of Legal Institutions, edited by Edward L. López, does exactly that. It shows why faulty incentives lie at the heart of numerous failures of the U.S. legal system. Rather than the romanticized version of the law as portrayed in television dramas and in much academic research, it portrays the legal system as it actually performs in practice. This realism, in turn, provides the basis for reform proposals in a host of areas—from fingerprinting to criminal sentencing, from lawyer licensing to judicial selection, and from eminent domain to wealth transfers via class-action lawsuits.

The Pursuit of Justice is a realistic yet hopeful study of legal institutions, which as a whole provides a rigorous analysis of an array of topics and argues for reform of currently socially wasteful aspects of the law,” López writes in the book’s introductory chapter.

The book’s strength comes in part from the inspiration and analytical toolkit provided by public choice theory, traditionally the economic study of politics, as Robert D. Tollison explains in his foreword to the book. “As the original generation of public choice and law and economics scholars fade into the history of economic thought, a new generation steps up to carry on, defend, and extend the hard-earned intellectual gains,” writes Tollison. “That is why reading The Pursuit of Justice is such a refreshing intellectual experience.”

With chapters written by economists and law professors, The Pursuit of Justice offers a wealth of cross-disciplinary insights to help us understand—and improve—the performance of the U.S. legal system. The book covers five broad topics: the capture of the law by private interests, judicial selection methods, forensic science administration, eminent domain, and the law as a means of wealth redistribution.


Adam Summers is Senior Policy Analyst


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