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Legal Regime and Business's Organizational Choice: A Comparison of France and the United States

Author

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  • Naomi R. Lamoreaux
  • Jean-Laurent Rosenthal

Abstract

In a recent series of articles, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert W. Vishny have argued that countries whose legal systems are based on civil law (especially of French origin) have systematically weaker environments for business than those whose legal systems are based on Anglo-American common law. This paper addresses that argument by exploring the responsiveness of French and U.S. law to the needs of business enterprises during the nineteenth century, when both countries were undergoing industrialization. We find that contracting environment in the U.S. was in fact neither freer nor more flexible than that in France during this critical period. Not only did U.S. law offer enterprises a more limited menu of organizational choices, but business people in the U.S. had much less ability to adapt the basic forms to meet their needs than their French counterparts. Nor is there any evidence that American law evolved more readily in response to economic change than French law. In both nations, major changes in the rules governing organizational forms required the passage of new statutes, and governmental institutions do not seem to have worked any more expeditiously in the U.S. than in France to improve the menu of choices. To the contrary, it was not until the late twentieth century that U.S. business obtained much the same degree of contractual freedom that their French counterparts had long taken for granted.

Suggested Citation

  • Naomi R. Lamoreaux & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2004. "Legal Regime and Business's Organizational Choice: A Comparison of France and the United States," NBER Working Papers 10288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10288
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 2000. "Investor protection and corporate governance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1-2), pages 3-27.
    2. Juan C. Botero & Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "The Regulation of Labor," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1339-1382.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marco Pagano & Paolo F. Volpin, 2005. "The Political Economy of Corporate Governance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1005-1030, September.
    2. Marco Pagano & Paolo Volpin, 2005. "Shareholder Protection, Stock Market Development, and Politics," CSEF Working Papers 149, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    3. Jianqing Ruan & Xiaobo Zhang, 2009. "Finance and Cluster-Based Industrial Development in China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(1), pages 143-164, October.
    4. John Joseph Wallis, 2006. "The Concept of Systematic Corruption in American History," NBER Chapters,in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 23-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Bordo, Michael D. & Rousseau, Peter L., 2006. "Legal-political factors and the historical evolution of the finance-growth link," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(03), pages 421-444, December.
    6. Leonardo Felli & Alessandro Riboni & Luca Anderlini, 2007. "Statute Law or Case Law?," 2007 Meeting Papers 952, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. John Joseph Wallis, 2004. "The Concept of Systematic Corruption in American Political and Economic History," NBER Working Papers 10952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. David Kessler & Peter Temin, 2007. "The organization of the grain trade in the early Roman Empire," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(2), pages 313-332, May.
    9. John Joseph Wallis, 2004. "Constitutions, Corporations, and Corruption: American States and Constitutional Change," NBER Working Papers 10451, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Fogel, Kathy & Morck, Randall & Yeung, Bernard, 2008. "Big business stability and economic growth: Is what's good for General Motors good for America?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 83-108, July.
    11. Douglass C. North & John Joseph Wallis & Barry R. Weingast, 2006. "A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History," NBER Working Papers 12795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation

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