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Bentham’s economics of legislation


  • Marco E. L. Guidi

    () (Department of Social Studies, Faculty of Economics, University of Brescia)


Bentham's pioneering contribution in the field of Law & Economics and in the economic analysis of politics has sometimes been stressed by commentators. This paper aims to highlight the economic dimension that was present in Bentham's legal and political writings. Accordingly, the paper examines the different meanings in which Bentham employed the term "economy" in his "science of legislation": "political economy", "public economy" (i.e. public finance and civil administration), "economy of punishment and reward", "economy in legal procedure". In all these fields, Bentham intended to introduce a scientific treatment which was to supersede the idea of "economy" as moral or political virtue and "wisdom of the householder", and replace it with a rigorous and self-consistent analysis based on the notions of efficiency and efficacy. This economic analysis evaluated the consequences of laws and institutions in terms of costs and benefits for the individuals concerned. Political economy, in Bentham's conception, was only one of the branches of this enlarged "economics", which was intended as a "science of the legislator". The paper also examines the structure, methodology and main analytical tools employed in Bentham's "economics of legislation". Some examples of the achievements Bentham reached in the economic analysis of corruption, legal procedure and political agenda are made in the last part of the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco E. L. Guidi, "undated". "Bentham’s economics of legislation," Departmental Working Papers guidi-20000301-1, University of Brescia, Department of Social Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:usb:dipdss:guidi-20000301-1

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    Cited by:

    1. Jimena Hurtado, 2005. "The Utilitarian Foundations Of The Economic Approach To Human Behavior," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 003633, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.

    More about this item


    Jeremy Bentham; law and economics; public economy;

    JEL classification:

    • B12 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Classical (includes Adam Smith)
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General
    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)

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