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Expressive Law and Economics

  • Cooter, Robert
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    This article develops an economic theory of expressive law. By expressing social values, law can tip a system of social norms into a new equilibrium. This process can create or destroy a social norm without changing individual values. In addition, law can change the individual values of rational people. Internalizing a social norm is a moral commitment that attaches a psychological penalty to a forbidden act. A rational person internalizes a norm when commitment conveys an advantage relative to the original preferences and the changed preferences. I call such a commitment a Pareto self-improvement. By creating opportunities for Pareto self-improvements, law induces rational people to change their preferences. Inducing change in this way respects individual preferences, rather favoring a particular moral theory.

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    File URL: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/3w34j60j.pdf;origin=repeccitec
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    Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt3w34j60j.

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    Date of creation: 01 Jan 1998
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    Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt3w34j60j
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