Competing Norms and Social Evolution: Is the Fittest Norm Efficient?

Posted: 31 May 2001

See all articles by Paul G. Mahoney

Paul G. Mahoney

University of Virginia School of Law

Chris William Sanchirico

University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of Pennsylvania Wharton School - Business Economics and Public Policy Department

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Abstract

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 describe how law rights this trend.

JEL Classification: K10, K11, K12, K13

Suggested Citation

Mahoney, Paul G. and Sanchirico, Chris William, Competing Norms and Social Evolution: Is the Fittest Norm Efficient?. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 149, 2001, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=271788

Paul G. Mahoney (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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Chris William Sanchirico

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

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University of Pennsylvania Wharton School - Business Economics and Public Policy Department

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