Bentham’s economics of legislation
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.
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