Libertarianism, Law and Economics, and the Common Law

Todd J. Zywicki

George Mason University School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

November 12, 2012

George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-78

This article was prepared as a contribution to the Chapman Law Review’s symposium on “Libertarian Legal Theory.” While libertarian legal theory and law and economics share many affinities there are places in which both the method of the common law and the substantive rules of the common law differ from libertarian philosophy.

In this article I focus on some of these differences and explain why in the end I have come to side with the rules generated by the common law and explained by law and economics when those results clash with those derived by libertarian philosophy. To some extent the essay is autobiographical: I initially came to my study of the common law with strong libertarian priors but have eventually found the common law and law and economics to provide a more compelling positive and normative structure for understanding law than philosophical libertarianism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 27

Keywords: British, Carleton Kemp Allen, benevolent spontaneous order, Charles Darwin, commercial, contracts, efficiency, egalitarianism, English, free, Frederick Carl von Savigny, Friedrich Hayek, group selection, Henry Maine, Murray Rothbard, natural rights, property, society, Ronald Coase, transaction costs

JEL Classification: K00, K11, K12, K21, K23, K32, K42

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Date posted: November 13, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Zywicki, Todd J., Libertarianism, Law and Economics, and the Common Law (November 12, 2012). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-78. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2174534 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2174534

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Todd J. Zywicki (Contact Author)
George Mason University School of Law ( email )
3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
703-993-8091 (Phone)
703-993-8088 (Fax)

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PERC - Property and Environment Research Center
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Bozeman, MT 59718
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