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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. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-3125520 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Ross Levine, 2002. "Bank-Based or Market-Based Financial Systems: Which is Better?," NBER Working Papers 9138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. 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.
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  16. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Law, endowments, and finance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 137-181, November.
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