Econ 522 Economics of Law - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

About This Presentation

Econ 522 Economics of Law


Econ 522 Economics of Law Dan Quint Spring 2012 Lecture 2 Logistics Monday, we Today: efficiency First concept: Pareto improvement Pareto superiority is not that ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:70
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 45
Provided by: DanQ9
Learn more at:


Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Econ 522 Economics of Law

Econ 522Economics of Law
Dan Quint Spring 2012 Lecture 2
  • If youre still trying to get into the class, get
    your name on the yellow pad
  • TA sections begin this Friday
  • Fake homework for Wednesday on website

Monday, we
  • defined law and economics
  • saw some brief history of the common law
  • and the civil law
  • and discussed ownership of dead whales

Today efficiency
  • what is efficiency?
  • is efficiency a good goal for the law?

What isefficiency?
First concept Pareto improvement
  • a Pareto improvement is any change to the economy
    which leaves
  • everyone at least as well off, and
  • someone strictly better off
  • example of a Pareto improvement
  • your car is worth 3,000 to you, 4,000 to me
  • I buy it for 3,500
  • an outcome is Pareto superior to another, or
    Pareto dominates it, if the second is a Pareto
    improvement over the first

Vilfredo Pareto(1848-1923)
Pareto superiority is not that useful a measure
for evaluating a legal system
  • Pareto improvements are win-win
  • but most new laws create some winners and some
  • so the Pareto criterion usually cant tell us
    whether one policy is better than another
  • even the car example might not be a true
  • so we need another way to compare outcomes

Next concept Kaldor-Hicks improvement
  • a Kaldor-Hicks improvement is any change to the
    economy which could be turned into a Pareto
    improvement with monetary transfers
  • also called potential Pareto improvement
  • car example again
  • your car is worth 3,000 to you and 4,000 to me
  • government seizes your car and gives it to me
  • Im better off, youre worse off
  • combined with me giving you 3,500, its a Pareto
  • so me getting your car is a Kaldor-Hicks
  • a Kaldor-Hicks improvement may create winners and
    losers, but gains outweigh the losses
  • Im 4,000 better off, youre 3,000 worse off,
    4,000 gt 3,000

  • You and I are neighbors, you want to throw a
  • The party would make me 100 worse off
  • and make you 50 better off
  • and make each of your 30 guests 5 better off
  • Is the party a Pareto improvement?
  • No it makes you and your guests better off,
    makes me worse off
  • Is the party a Kaldor-Hicks improvement?
  • Yes because the party, combined with the
    appropriate money transfers, would be a Pareto
  • (Example you throw the party, you give me 40,
    each of your guests gives me 3 thats a Pareto

To check if something is a Kaldor-Hicks
improvement, we can
  • look for transfers that turn it into a
  • or, just count up the gains of the winners and
    the losses of the losers, and see which is bigger
  • a change in the economy is a Kaldor-Hicks
    improvement if the winners gains outweigh the
    losers losses
  • if you have the party
  • Im 100 worse off
  • Youre 50 better off
  • 30 guests are each 5 better off
  • 100 50 30 X 5 100 gt 0
  • Gains outweigh losses, so party is a Kaldor-Hicks

  • A Kaldor-Hicks improvement is any change
    thatcreates value
  • where value is equated with willingness to pay
  • We said the party made me 100 worse off
  • We equated my disutility from you making noise
    with the amount of money that would replace the
    inconvenience if you threw the party and gave
    me 100, Id be just as well off as before
  • By equating utility with money, we create a way
    to compare utility across individuals

  • we will call a change to the economy efficient if
    it is a Kaldor-Hicks improvement
  • well say law A is more efficient than law B if
    moving from B to A is a Kaldor-Hicks improvement
  • and well say a situation is efficient if there
    are no available Kaldor-Hicks improvements
  • an efficient situation is when theres no way to
    make some people better off, without making some
    others worse off by more
  • were already getting maximal value out of all
    available resources

Example is it efficient for me to drive to work
instead of taking the bus?
  • Bus to campus from where I live is free
  • Driving is more convenient, but costs me 1 (gas)
  • Driving also imposes costs on other people
    theres more traffic, less parking, more
  • Suppose when I drive to work, it makes 1,000
    other people worse off by 0.01 each
  • By driving to work, I create 11 of total costs
  • Its efficient for me to drive to work if the
    benefit I get is more than 11
  • If the benefit is less than 11, its inefficient
    for me to drive

Some other, similar measures
  • our definition of efficiency actions are taken
    when total benefits outweigh total costs
  • goal is to achieve all Kaldor-Hicks
  • Ellickson efficiency is minimizing the
    objective sum of
  • (1) transaction costs, and
  • (2) deadweight losses arising from failures to
    exploit potential gains from trade
  • Posner wealth maximization
  • Polinsky Efficiency corresponds to the size of
    the pie

What forces lead to inefficiency
To see whether somethings efficient
  • Compare gains to everyone in society (total
    social benefit)
  • to costs to everyone (total social costs)
  • Example we already saw (me driving to work)
  • Total social cost 1 (gas) 1,000 X 0.01
  • Total social benefit whatever I gain by driving
    to work
  • So we just said its efficient for me to drive
    to campus whenever the value I get from driving
    is more than 11

But what do people actually do?
  • When people decide how to act
  • they consider the cost and benefit to
    themselves, not to everyone
  • private benefit and private cost
  • Driving only costs me 1
  • so Ill drive whenever benefit to me is more than
  • On days when value I get from driving is more
    than 1 but less than 11, I drive to work even
    though thats inefficient

So externalities cause inefficiency
  • Ill do something whenever private benefit gt
    private cost
  • Efficiency depends on whether social benefit gt
    social cost
  • If I was the only one affected by my choices,
    then social benefit private benefit and social
    cost private cost
  • when Im deciding which movie to watch on
    Netflix, nobody else is effected by my choice, so
    my choice will be efficient
  • But when my choices affect other peoples
  • social benefit ¹ private benefit, or social cost
    ¹ private cost
  • so actions I choose to take may not be efficient

A classic example of this the Tragedy of the
  • Hardin (1968), The Tragedy of the Commons
  • Picture a small fishing village on a lake
  • The more fish I catch, the fewerfish are left in
    the lake
  • and the harder it is for everyone else in the
    village to catch fish
  • So my fishing imposes an externality on everyone
  • So everyone ends up fishing more than the
    efficient amount

Tragedy of the Commons example
  • 20 fishermen
  • Cost of fishing is 8 fish per hour
  • Notation
  • h how many hours I fish
  • H combined hours everyone fishes
  • H hours everyone but me fishes
  • Fishermen catch 260 H fish per hour
  • What is the efficient level of fishing? How much
    utility does that give to each fisherman?
  • 6.3 hours per day per fisherman 793.8 fish/day
  • Left to their own devices, how much will each
    person fish? How much utility will each person
  • 12 hours per day per fisherman 144 fish/day

Total fish caught
Maximum Sustainable Yield
H (260 H)
Efficient Level of Fishing
Equilibrium Level of Fishing
Hours fishing, per day, per fisherman
Whats going on here?
  • Fishing imposes a negative externality on other
  • Each one ignores this externality when deciding
    how much to fish
  • so they all end up fishing more than the
    efficient amount
  • Same thing happens with other communal resources
  • Cattle grazing, whaling, overhunting, oyster beds
  • Aristotle That which is common to the greatest
    number has the least care bestowed upon it
  • Elinor Ostrom, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in
    Economics, studies how different societies solve
    this problem
  • Positive externalities work the opposite way
  • Activities which create positive externalities
    are naturally done less than the efficient amount

So externalities can lead to inefficiency
  • Without some sort of regulation/intervention
  • Activities which impose a negative externality
    will be done more than the efficient amount
  • and activities which impose a positive
    externality will be done less than the efficient
  • One idea well see several times in this class
  • if we want the law to lead to efficient
  • we can try to design the law to eliminate
  • Internalization

Other forces which lead to inefficiency
Another thing that leads to inefficiencybarriers
to trade
  • Cuban cigars
  • Suppose Id pay 15 each for Cohibas
  • They cost 2 each to make, and another3 each to
    transport from Cuba to Madison
  • Clearly, its efficient for me to smoke Cohibas
  • But trade embargo on Cuba makes it illegal for me
    to buy them
  • Anything that prevents me from buying something I
    want can be a source of inefficiency
  • One approach to property law make it as easy as
    possible for people to trade among themselves
  • (This may seem like an obvious point but then,
    there are lots of things were not allowed to

Another thing that leads to inefficiency taxes
  • I value my free time at 40/hour
  • Working in a factory, I can build things worth
  • Clearly, its efficient for me to work
  • Each hour I work creates 10 of new value
  • Doesnt matter who gets it its efficient for
    me to work
  • But if income tax is 25, then it wont happen
  • Factory owner cant pay me more than 50/hour
  • But 50/hour pre-tax is only 37.50 after-tax
  • and Id rather stay home than earn 37.50 an
  • So I dont get hired, which is inefficient

Another example of taxes leading to inefficiency
  • This is a new BMW thats been cut in half
  • Taxes distort behavior away from efficiency

Another thing that leads to inefficiency monopoly
(or private information)
  • Example
  • Demand for some good given by P 100 Q
  • Monopolist can produce good for 40/unit
  • Monopoly price is 70, demand is 30
  • Deadweight loss is inefficiency
  • Customers willing to pay more than marginal cost
    but unable to trade

P 100 Q
P 70
MC 40
Q 30
But, saying these things lead to inefficiency
doesnt automatically mean theyre bad
  • For example
  • we just said taxes lead to inefficiency
  • but without taxes, theres be far too few public
    goods, which is also inefficient
  • we just said monopoly leads to inefficiency
  • but well study patents, which are legal
    monopolies used to get companies to innovate
  • But also, weve defined efficient, but we
    havent claimed that efficient good
  • Which brings us to

Is efficiency a good goal for the law?
Important distinction positive versus normative
  • positive statements are statements of fact
  • can be descriptive in 2007, U.S. GDP was 13.8
  • can be theoretical predictions if prices rise,
    demand will fall
  • economics of what is
  • normative statements contain value judgments
  • for example, less inequality is better
  • or, government should encourage innovation
  • economics of what ought to be

Most of this class will be positive analysis
  • Predicting behavior, and outcomes, that follow
    from a law or legal system is positive economics
  • Law X will lead to more car accidents than law
  • Law X will lead to more efficient outcomes than
    law Y
  • But in the background, wed like some sense of
    what is the normative goal of the legal system
  • Law X is better than law Y
  • One candidate for that normative goal is

Friedman gives a few arguments for studying
The central question in this book is a
simple one what set of rules and institutions
maximize the size of the pie? What legal rules
are economically efficient? There are at least
three reasons why that is the question we
ask. The first is that while economic
efficiency is not the only thing that matters to
human beings, it is something that matters quite
a lot to most human beings. The second reason is
that there is evidence that considerable parts of
the legal system we live in can be explained as
tools to generate efficient outcomes It is a
lot easier to make sense out of a tool if you
know what it is designed to do. A final reason
is that figuring out what rules lead to
efficient outcomes is one of the things
economists know how to do and when you have a
hammer, everything looks like a nail. -
Friedman, Laws Order, p. 312
  • This answers the question, Why is it interesting
    to study efficiency?
  • Not the question, Should the law be designed
    with the goal of achieving efficiency?
  • To answer this latter question

Posner gives us one argument why the law should
aim to be efficient
  • Richard Posner (1980), The Ethical and Political
    Basis of Efficiency Norm in Common Law
  • Starts with the observation if you buy a lottery
    ticket and dont win anything, you cant complain
  • Imagine before we all started driving, everyone
    in the world got together and negotiated a
    liability rule for traffic accidents
  • If one rule is more efficient than another, wed
    all vote for that rule ex-ante ex-ante consent

Ex-ante consent simple example
  • Suppose there are two candidate rules for
    accident liability
  • One favors pedestrians, one favors drivers
  • The one favoring car drivers is more efficient
  • Posners point before we know who well be,
    everyone would unanimously agree to the second

Expected payoff if you dont know which one
youll be
Expected payoff, pedestrians
Expected payoff, drivers
Strict liability rule
Negligence rule
Things are a little more complicated
  • People without cars would prefer a less efficient
    system if it meant drivers were responsible
  • Posner deals with heterogeneity with a different
  • Landlord-friendly versus tenant-friendly laws
  • Might think tenants would prefer pro-tenant laws
  • But rents are determined competitively
  • If laws become more tenant-friendly, rents might
    go up to compensate
  • And if tenant-friendly law is less efficient, it
    could make both sides worse off!

Example new law requiring landlords to pay for
their tenants heat
  • Suppose tenants get 1000 value from apartment,
    minus rent
  • Landlords pay 100 for heat, 600 in other costs
  • Without this law, tenants would pay for their own
  • Theyd heat apartment less, get 980 value and
    pay 60 for heat
  • Might think tenants would prefer inefficient
    tenant-friendly law
  • But rents are set competitively, would go up to
  • So both landlords and tenants do better under the
    old law!

Landlords payoffs
Tenants payoffs
850 600 100 150
1000 850 150
rent 600 100
1000 rent
Landlord pays for heat
760 600 160
980 60 760 160
rent 600
980 60 rent
Tenant pays for heat
Ex-ante consent, ex-ante compensation
  • Posners basic argument if we choose the most
    efficient legal system, everyone is compensated
    ex-ante for the choice, and should willingly
    accept the outcome they get
  • Of course, all this consent is hypothetical
  • and it does have certain limitations

Limitations to Posners argument
  • The lottery ticket analogy requires risk
  • 50 chance at 1,000,000 is just as good as 50
    chance at 900,000 and 50 chance at 100,000
  • If 100,000 is worth more to you when youre
    broke than when you already have 900,000, this
    argument doesnt work
  • Counterpoint to Posner Hammond (1982)
  • Efficiency is really a special case of
    utilitarianism, and subject to the same
  • Value willingness to pay
  • 1 worth the same to everyone

This highlights some of the things efficiency is
  • efficiency is not equity
  • efficiency is not fairness
  • efficiency is not maximizing happiness
  • Suppose that pituitary extract is in very short
    supply and is therefore very expensive. A poor
    family has a child who will be a dwarf if he
    doesnt get some of the extract, but the family
    cannot afford the price or borrow the money.
  • A rich family has a child who will grow to
    normal height, but the extract will add a few
    inches more, and his parents decide to buy it for
  • In the sense of value used in this book, the
    pituitary extract is more valuable to the rich
    family because value is measured by willingness
    to pay, but the extract would confer greater
    happiness in the hands of the poor family.
  • - Posner, Economic Analysis of Law

A more pragmatic defense of efficiency as a goal
for the law
  • Cooter and Ulen (textbook ch. 1)
  • Efficiency should not necessarily be the goal of
  • But efficiency should be the goal of the legal
  • If redistribution is desirable, its better to
    make the legal system efficient, and address
    distribution through taxes
  • Cooter and Ulen offer four reasons why the tax
    system is a better way to redistribute wealth
    than the legal system

Four reasons the tax system is a better way to
redistribute wealth than the legal system
  • 1. Taxes can target rich and poor more
    precisely than the legal system can
  • Distributional effects of legal changes are
    harder to predict
  • Lawyers are more expensive than accountants
  • More narrowly-targeted taxes cause greater
    distortion than broad-based taxes

So, summing up is efficiency a good goal for the
  • Weve seen two arguments in favor
  • Posner its what we all would have agreed on
  • CU if you want to redistribute, its better to
    do it through taxes
  • But there are definitely some problems with
  • Distribution matters not everything is
    monetizable people might care about procedural
  • My take
  • In this class, well mostly focus on the positive
  • But in the background, I think of efficiency as a
    pretty good, but definitely imperfect, measure
    of goodness

For Monday
  • One argument from CU for why law should focus on
    efficiency, redistribution should be done through
  • narrow taxes cause more distortion than broad
  • Wednesday, well work through an example of this
  • Optional homework problem
  • If you want to read ahead, look atRonald Coase,
    The Problem of Social Cost(although we
    probably wont get to Coase till Wednesday)
  • See me if youre not yet registered

Thats it for today see you next week
Write a Comment
User Comments (0)