IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Myths and Truths: The "Law and Finance Theory" Revisited



The "law and finance theory" predicts that the common law system provides the best basis for financial development and economic growth, followed by Scandinavian and German origin civil law and finally French origin civil law. Referring to a number of sceptical views, this paper argues that the theory faces an identification problem, since the majority of common law countries have a market-based financial system, whereas the majority of civil law countries have a bank-based financial system. Moreover, there are plausible alternative hypotheses to explain the quality of the financial system; but that they cannot rule out that the theory refers to a relevant link between the legal tradition and financial development. Finally it is argued that the corner stone of the law and finance theory is the proposition that different legal traditions imply different degrees of investor protection. It is demonstrated that a few minor, but sensible modifications in aggregating the original indicator set produce results that are different from those reported so far and contradictory to the theory's ranking of the four major legal families in terms of investor protection. Accordingly, the validity of the theory's investor protection measures for international comparisons, the supremacy of the common law legacy in protecting investors and, consequently, the validity of legal origin variables to instrument for financial development, have to be regarded as myths rather than truths.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Graff, 2006. "Myths and Truths: The "Law and Finance Theory" Revisited," KOF Working papers 06-122, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:kof:wpskof:06-122

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grogan, Louise & Moers, Luc, 2001. "Growth empirics with institutional measures for transition countries," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 323-344, December.
    2. Ajit Singh & Bruce Weisse & Alaka Singh, 2002. "Corporate governance, competition, the new international financial architecture and large corporations in emerging markets," Working Papers wp250, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    3. Stijn Claessens & Luc Laeven, 2003. "Financial Development, Property Rights, and Growth," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(6), pages 2401-2436, December.
    4. Robert G. King & Ross Levine, 1993. "Finance and Growth: Schumpeter Might Be Right," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 717-737.
    5. La Porta, Rafael & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. " Legal Determinants of External Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(3), pages 1131-1150, July.
    6. Berkowitz, Daniel & Pistor, Katharina & Richard, Jean-Francois, 2003. "Economic development, legality, and the transplant effect," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 165-195, February.
    7. Ross Levine & Norman Loayza & Thorsten Beck, 2002. "Financial Intermediation and Growth: Causality and Causes," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Leonardo Hernández & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Se (ed.), Banking, Financial Integration, and International Crises, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 2, pages 031-084 Central Bank of Chile.
    8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    9. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Law, endowments, and finance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 137-181, November.
    10. Michael Graff, 2005. "Law and Finance: Common-law and Civil-law Countries Compared," KOF Working papers 05-99, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    11. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "Law and Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1113-1155, December.
    12. Levine, Ross, 2002. "Bank-Based or Market-Based Financial Systems: Which Is Better?," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 398-428, October.
    13. Thorsten Beck & Ross Levine, 2003. "Legal institutions and financial development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3136, The World Bank.
    14. Harberger, Arnold C, 1998. "A Vision of the Growth Process," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 1-32, March.
    15. Beck, Thorsten & Levine, Ross & Loayza, Norman, 2000. "Finance and the sources of growth," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1-2), pages 261-300.
    16. Allen, Franklin & Gale, Douglas, 1995. "A welfare comparison of intermediaries and financial markets in Germany and the US," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-209, February.
    17. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    18. repec:hrv:faseco:30728041 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Zingales, Luigi, 2003. "The great reversals: the politics of financial development in the twentieth century," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 5-50, July.
    20. Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 1999. "Bank-based and market-based financial systems - cross-country comparisons," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2143, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Michael Graff, 2013. "Legal origin and financial development: new evidence for old claims? The creditor rights index revisited," International Journal of Trade and Global Markets, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 6(4), pages 326-344.

    More about this item


    Financial Development; Legal System; Investor Protection;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kof:wpskof:06-122. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.