Department of Law

When Economics Meets Law: An Introduction to the Economic Analysis of Law

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportBookEducationpeer-review

  • Matthew James Elsmore
This is not an ordinary textbook, which reflects the author and intended audience, and mostly the subject of study. The subject of ‘law-and-economics’ can be intimidating to begin with, bringing together arguably two very old and very different disciplines into one learning challenge. In my experience, many readers and students of law-and-economics feel they have to work twice as hard for half the reward. It is not a traditional subject. This first impression may be with some good reason, but let me assure you the subject’s bark is far worse than its bite, at least with the help of this book. In fact, once we get to know it better and you get into the book, you will find it is more manageable and much more helpful than many might first have thought. As we find out, a lot about mastering this subject involves taking a fresh perspective and not relying only on first impressions.
This book’s approach reflects around two decades of teaching and research in the subject of law-and-economics. A main piece of feedback I receive regularly is the difficulty of the subject and the inability to find out what it’s all about, neither of which are helped by the perceived unsuitable US-biased textbooks currently on the market. Creating a textbook is not the same as writing a novel or a research article or news piece in media. Textbook users are unlikely, all of them, to read through from the very first page all the way through the last page, and this applies especially so for the subject of this book. This means the textbook creator has to accommodate different kinds of usage, with some people coming on board at later stages.
Hence one of the first things I did was commit to creating a book of my own. Secondly, I wanted to give the subject a more accessible name; ‘law-and-economics’ is actually misleading and we will be using the expression ‘the economic analysis of law’ as much as possible and I will explain why (partly (spoiler alter) this is to do with the order of the subjects…). I have been running a successful course ‘Law and Economics – An Introduction to the Economic Analysis of Law’ for many years including most recently at Aarhus University. And this is also why it is appropriate that the first official publication of this book ‘When Economics Meets Law’ should be with Aarhus University Press (Aarhus Universitetsforlag). Another reason is the attractive offer they have to receive a free e-book with the hard copy version so that one, or other, or both, are available to make the resource more convenient for reader-students. Thirdly, I wanted the audience to be at the forefront of my mind, and for me to see visualise them as using the book; hence, I will often refer to then – to you as readers and students – as ‘users’. The result, this book, is what I refer to as a hybrid-learning-handbook. It is less formal and relies more on other available sources – including online – to encourage user participation. Essentially, it provides the core outline of connected lectures and exercises.
Can a book have culture, an ethos? I’d like to think so. This book’s buzzword – its culture or ethos – is ‘user-friendly dialogue’. I hope that is already apparent from this first page of text. Because this book makes a genuine effort to aid the user with a rich source of (classroom-related) activities for each topic discussed including group and individual work with for instance, a series of specially designed case studies and a sample of formal exams used in the past; there are even model answers included! Several of the case studies, which drive the book along and provide one of its (so-called) red line, are introduced in the opening part of the book. These case studies, which are both fictional and based on real events, help set the tone and are absolutely essential reading. The aim is to improve relevance and access of the whole book and its subject. It is in this sense a non-traditional textbook; I prefer the expression ‘user-handbook’ – one that focuses as much as it can on the active tense and interactive dialogue, rather than hundreds of passive yet busy and footnoted pages written at some unspecified and unresponsive audience, which is sadly how many textbooks still appear. The audience for this book is a Danish and European one, at university and/or working in business.
The case studies are from all over the world including Denmark, India and the US – even the Sahara Desert. In fact, the book has a real international feel to it – drawing on the author’s experiences teaching and researching in various different countries, and the wealth of international scholarship in the field, as well as the diverse profile of my student over the years and those I have come into contact with in the subject. This makes sense too, because once mastered, the subject matter and its processes and transferable in different academic and professional settings, and not confined to local concerns. This is another reason why studying the subject in English makes good sense too.
Overall, whilst I cannot promise this book will make the subject simple (it is not a simple subject), it can make it all simpler. This starts with the use of ordinary language as much as possible, especially as many readers will not have English as their mother tongue, or ‘law’ or even ‘economics’ necessarily. As to law, numerous examples are drawn from within and outside Europe, and the advantage with economics is that is a much more international subject to begin with. What I can promise is with effective use of this book – and participation in lectures and case studies, reader-students will gain relevant knowledge and analytical skills, and be much more likely to enjoy success in their assessments related to Law-and-Economics, and after that too. Above all, and as I did personally in the creative journey of making this book, I believe users will have fun and learn a load of stuff along the way. That said, this project is a work-in-progress and I demand your (constructive) feedback as you will see.
In the meantime, the interactive process starts right away with a Hollywood-style opening in the first chapter, in a story called The Island in which you play the starring role…
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAarhus Universitetsforlag
Number of pages500
Publication statusIn preparation - 2018

    Research areas

  • law-and-economics, economic anaylsis of law, law and economics, textbook

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