The Uneasy Case for Parsimony in (Law and) Economics: Or How to Talk About Value Judgements

16 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2019

See all articles by Péter Cserne

Péter Cserne

University of Hull; Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC)

Date Written: February 1, 2019


This paper has been written as an invited contribution to a symposium on Guido Calabresi’s book on The Future of Law and Economics. Taking Calabresi’s discussion of preferences and value judgements in law and economics as a starting point, this paper analyses some conceptual difficulties, epistemic benefits and normative uses of parsimonious economic analyses of “tastes and values.” First, the paper shows that it is not only possible to analyse and model all the richness of “tastes and values” in terms of rational choice theory with intellectual honesty and epistemic benefit. In fact, economists and economically inspired legal scholars have been doing this for a while. Second, it discusses three arguments that economists can mount in support of parsimonious models. Third, it shows that in spite of such benefits the merits of such an exercise in parsimony do not always clearly outweigh its drawbacks. More importantly, it points at some conceptual limits of such parsimonious modelling.

Keywords: law and economics, parsimony in economic models, values in economics, Guido Calabresi

JEL Classification: A13, B41, D63, K00

Suggested Citation

Cserne, Péter, The Uneasy Case for Parsimony in (Law and) Economics: Or How to Talk About Value Judgements (February 1, 2019). TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2019-001. Available at SSRN: or

Péter Cserne (Contact Author)

University of Hull ( email )

University of Hull School of Law and Politics
Cottingham Road
Hull, HU6 7RX
United Kingdom


Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC) ( email )

Warandelaan 2
Tilburg, 5000 LE

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