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The Evolution of Common Law

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  • Gennaioli, Nicola
  • Shleifer, Andrei

Abstract

We present a model of lawmaking by appellate courts in which judges influenced by policy preferences can distinguish precedents at some cost. We find a cost and a benefit of diversity of judicial views. Policyâ€motivated judges distort the law away from efficiency, but diversity of judicial views also fosters legal evolution and increases the law’s precision. We call our central finding the Cardozo theorem: even when judges are motivated by personal agendas, legal evolution is, on average, beneficial because it washes out judicial biases and renders the law more precise. Our paper provides a theoretical foundation for the evolutionary adaptability of common law.

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File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3451305/Shleifer_EvolutionCommon.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3451305.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Political Economy -Chicago-
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3451305

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