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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.

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Paper provided by KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich in its series KOF Working papers with number 06-122.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kof:wpskof:06-122
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  1. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1996. "Law and Finance," NBER Working Papers 5661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. 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, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
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  14. Daniel Berkowitz & Karina Pistor & Jean-Francois Richard, 2001. "Economic Development, Legality, and the Transplant Effect," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 410, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  15. King, Robert G & Levine, Ross, 1993. "Finance and Growth: Schumpeter Might Be Right," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 717-37, August.
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  17. 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.
  18. Claessens, Stijn & Laeven, Luc, 2002. "Financial development, property rights, and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2924, The World Bank.
  19. 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.
  20. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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