47 Pages Posted: 26 May 2000
Date Written: January 2001
An influential theme in recent legal scholarship is that law is not as important as it appears. Social control, many scholars have noted, is often achieved through social norms - informal, decentralized systems of consensus and cooperation - rather than through law. This literature also displays a guarded optimism that social evolutionary processes will tend to favor the adoption of efficient norms. Using concepts from evolutionary game theory, we demonstrate that efficient norms will prevail only in certain settings and not in others: survival of the fittest does not imply survival of the efficient. In particular, we show that in many games of interest to legal scholars - games describing fundamental interactions in property, tort, and contract - evolutionary forces lead away from efficiency. We also describe how law rights the trend.
JEL Classification: K10, K11, K12, K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Mahoney, Paul G. and Sanchirico, Chris William, Competing Norms and Social Evolution: Is the Fittest Norm Efficient? (January 2001). UVA Law School, Legal Studies Working Paper No. 00-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=229694 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.229694