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Concepts in Law and EconomicsA Guide for the Curious$
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Jim Leitzel

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190213978

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190213978.001.0001

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E pluribus unum [One Out of Many]

E pluribus unum [One Out of Many]

(p.1) 1 E pluribus unum [One Out of Many]
Concepts in Law and Economics

Jim Leitzel

Oxford University Press

A person living in complete isolation will serve society’s interests when she serves her own interests because she constitutes all of her society. When multiple people share a society, however, we can no longer be guaranteed that an individual’s choices will promote social well-being. Law can help form a successful society, a cohesive one-out-of-many, by encouraging people to take the interests of others into account when making decisions. If different people have different preferences, it is not obvious what constitutes society’s overall interests. Law and Economics follows in the footsteps of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748‒1832), associating the social good with a type of economic efficiency. As long as people can negotiate and forge agreements at low cost, they will choose non-wasteful rules, rules that result in efficiency. This insight lies behind the most famous Law and Economics result, termed the Coase Theorem after Professor Ronald Coase (1910‒2013).

Keywords:   efficiency, Jeremy Bentham, Ronald Coase, social well-being, society

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