Evolutionary Law and Economics: Theory and Method

Markou, Christopher 

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The standard model of evolution in the economics of law, its important insights notwithstanding, lacks a good account of inheritance to go with analogues to variation and selection. The normative implication of the standard model, which is that self-organising and spontaneous orders will tend to efficiency, is also misplaced. Just as the association of evolution with progress, characteristic of the theory of legal evolution of a century ago, is now understood to be anachronistic, so it is time to discard outmoded notions linking judge-made law and common law legal reasoning with evolution to efficiency. Setting aside the unwarranted normative connotations of evolutionary models would release them to shape empirical research. Evolutionary theory informs methods, including leximetrics, time-series econometrics and machine learning, with the potential to throw light on the structural dynamics of legal change, and to resolve questions of law’s coevolution with the economy which were raised but not resolved by the legal origins debate.

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Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly
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School of Law
ESRC (ES/T006315/1)