Legal Transitions and the Problem of Reliance

55 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2008 Last revised: 22 Jun 2010

See all articles by David Hasen

David Hasen

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: August 25, 2008


This article analyzes the literature on legal transitions. The principal focus is taxation, but the analysis generalizes to other areas. I argue that the theoretical apparatus developed by scholars active in the transitions area suffers from significant conceptual shortcomings. These shortcomings include the unwarranted assimilation of legal to factual change, the naturalization of conventional arrangements, and the unfounded disregard of the distinction between making law and finding it. As a consequence, the recent literature offers an analysis that is unable either to explain actual transitions or to provide an adequate theory of how legal change should take place. In the end, the older view of legal transitions is more capable than the newer one of providing an adequate normative and positive framework for understanding legal transitions.

Keywords: legal transitions, tax, legal theory

JEL Classification: H20, K34

Suggested Citation

Hasen, David, Legal Transitions and the Problem of Reliance (August 25, 2008). Columbia Journal of Tax Law, Penn State Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-2010, Available at SSRN:

David Hasen (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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