More From Henry Manne on The Future of Law and Economics

Josh Wright —  14 July 2008

The following email from Henry Manne takes up our previous discussion of the future of law and economics (available here in downloadable form) and is published with permission. I’ve inserted a few links where Manne references a few blog posts responding to our earlier discussion. With that said, here is Manne:

It is a little disappointing that there has not been a larger debate stirred up by our efforts, but that may tell us something about the level of interest either in L&E or in what happens in law schools today. Frankly I think I would put my money on the latter explanation. I think the entire legal education enterprise has become so politicized and ideological (and you know in which direction that leans) that there really are comparatively few law professors, especially among the younger ones, who even identify with the problem we were discussing. They don’t even know that law schools not too many years ago were intellectual wastelands. They still are, but the field is ersatz social science instead of doctrinal law.

That is what more and more leads me to regret losing the old approach of lawyers teaching doctrine to would-be lawyers. At least they did a creditable job of that. And incidentally I think Solum is too parochial when he asserts that there is no social justification for that approach to law. I think Hayek’s defense of common law is just that and very powerful.

There may be room for Solum’s PhD idea, but I do not think it will be occur
in the law schools (Harvard and Michigan and Stanford would never forego the training of practicing lawyers). His third possibility, the mixed interdisciplinary law school is the model that I think we have already seen won’t work, if for no other reason than the low quality of the non-law discipline scholarship. (His model of universities as a market for truth instead of a more traditional market just won’t fly unless he can adduce some far different evidence than I have seen.) The other blog, discussing engineers and physicists does nothing more than repeat the problem in an
analogy which is far from perfect. Engineers, unlike lawyers, do not have much choice of careers after graduation, and woe be unto the bridge builder whose ends don’t meet – unlike the would-be philosopher kings among self-described L&E scholars, who don’t know one end from another.)

Having said all that I want to warn against predicting the future in anything as chaotic as our universities. I don’t think there is much that is systematic in any not-for-profit organizations, and the problems are just compounded in our universities. One really good charismatic academic entrepreneur could do more to set the tone of future law schools than anything we have discussed. But whether such a person will ever exist and what he or she will look like I have not a clue.

One response to More From Henry Manne on The Future of Law and Economics


    Mr. Manne displays the mercurial temperament of a successful genius.

    Things aren’t so bad. Look at what Northwestern is doing.

    Law schools should pay more attention to accounting — an under-appreciated source of cultural norms. I never heard anybody talk about accounting while I was in law school despite the fact that lawyers and accountants work together all the time in business.