Sources of Law and the Institutional Design of Lawmaking

35 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2000

See all articles by Francesco Parisi

Francesco Parisi

University of Minnesota - Law School; University of Bologna; University of Miami, School of Law


This paper considers the relative advantages and the respective limits of three main sources of law, namely, (a) legislation; (b) judge-made law; and (c) customary law. The traditional presentation of sources of law is revisited, considering the important issue of institutional design of lawmaking through the lens of public choice theory. This functionalist approach to legal analysis sheds new light on the process of law formation, emphasizing various criteria of evaluation, which include: (i) the minimization of agency problems; (ii) the minimization of direct and external rulemaking costs; and (iii) the stability and transitivity of collective outcomes.

JEL Classification: K100

Suggested Citation

Parisi, Francesco, Sources of Law and the Institutional Design of Lawmaking. Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice, Vol. 19, Nos. 2-3, 2001, pp. 95-122, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 00-42, Available at SSRN: or

Francesco Parisi (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 1
40126 Bologna, fc 47100

University of Miami, School of Law ( email )

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