Conservative Economics and Optimal Consumer Bankruptcy Policy

Theoretical Inquiries, 2006

San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-26

28 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2005

See all articles by Mary Jo Wiggins

Mary Jo Wiggins

University of San Diego School of Law


In this paper, Professor Wiggins explores the relationship between conservative economic theories and major bankruptcy reforms recently enacted by the United States Congress. First, she describes three key components of conservative economic theory as advanced by the Bush administration and conservative scholars. These include: 1) a strong preference for private ordering over public ordering, 2) the promotion of private property as a means to expand personal freedom and liberty, and 3) the encouragement of individual risk internalization. Next, she describes two theoretical components of the new bankruptcy reforms. These include: 1) a preference for creditor collection over debt relief, and 2) the promotion of individual risk internalization. Then, Professor Wiggins examines two questions: First, is there meaningful theoretical symmetry between conservative economics and the new bankruptcy law? Second, is there significant operational symmetry between the two? The paper suggests theoretical convergence for two reasons: First, both aim to promote private bargains over administratively adjusted ones. Second, both seek to force individuals to absorb more of the risks of financial decision-making. The paper also suggests, however, that at the operational level, there exists significant divergence between the aims of conservative economics and the predicted consequences of the new law. Professor Wiggins concludes, among other things, that economic conservatives should pay more rigorous attention to personal bankruptcy policy because operational asymmetry between their theories and the new legislation could blunt their ambitious economic agenda for American consumers.

Keywords: conservative economics, bankruptcy policy

JEL Classification: A1, K10

Suggested Citation

Wiggins, Mary Jo, Conservative Economics and Optimal Consumer Bankruptcy Policy. Theoretical Inquiries, 2006; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-26. Available at SSRN:

Mary Jo Wiggins (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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