Truth and Law: Economics and Legal Interpretation

22 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2005

See all articles by Robin Paul Malloy

Robin Paul Malloy

Syracuse University College of Law

Date Written: October 24, 2005


The art of lawyering is grounded in the process of interpretation. This involves the continuous encoding and decoding of meanings and values through exchange, where exchange is not limited to commercial activity but understood broadly to encompass all forms of interaction, substitution, and value and meaning transformation - including that which occurs in language. It is a process of semiotics and it is grounded in the idea of humans as sign-making and sign-interpreting beings. Prototypical sign systems include: law, economics, language, music, fashion, architecture, science, methods of investigation, styles of argument, legal categories, interdisciplinary frameworks and paradigms, and a full range of ways in which people communicate ideas among and between each other. I have referred to this semiotic process applied to law as a cultural-interpretive approach "because this term expresses the semiotic ideas that the individual interpretive actor is situated within a cultural context and that a culture, in essence, is an implicit interpretive system".

In this paper I draw on my prior work, including two books for Cambridge University Press, to address the relationship between truth and law in a market context. In doing this I consider the ability of economic analysis to function as a cultural-interpretive sign of truth in law. For those familiar with my work, they will know that I spend considerable time examining the inability of economics to transform law into an objective and positive science. In this essay, however, I want to take a different perspective and focus on the ability of economics to reduce the subjectivity and indeterminacy of law.

Keywords: Law, Jurisprudence, society, semiotics, objectivity, citizenship, culture

JEL Classification: Z1,

Suggested Citation

Malloy, Robin Paul, Truth and Law: Economics and Legal Interpretation (October 24, 2005). Syracuse Univ. Public Law Research Paper No. 05-02, Available at SSRN: or

Robin Paul Malloy (Contact Author)

Syracuse University College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States
315-443-3559 (Phone)
315-443-4141 (Fax)

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