Economics 415: Law and Economics


Professor Alex Tabarrok

Office: Carow Hall, Office Hours: TR: 10-11:30, 2-4

Tel. 703-993-2314


Web Page:


Office Hours: Feel free to drop by any time or call for an appointment. Email is a good way to contact me. Students should periodically check their official GMU email for class annoucements.


There are two texts for the class, 1) An Introduction to Law and Economics, 3rd ed. By Mitchell Polinsky and 2) Laws Order by David Friedman. There will also be a number of readings most of which can be found online. The online readings can be easily accessed from a university computer by going to the class syllabus on my web page and clicking on the live links. The legal cases can be found by searching Lexis-Nexis (go to Lexis-Nexis then Legal Research then Get a Case) from a university computer (start at The other online readings can be found at the reserve reading desk of the library or through the library e-reserve system.


There will be three midterm exams worth 40% of the grade in total. There will be no make-up exams. Your lowest midterm grade will be dropped. The final exam will be worth 30% and will take place on Tuesday, December 13, 1:30-4:15. The remainder of the grade will consist of homework (25%) and class participation (5%). The grading scale is as follows:

A: 85-100%

A-: 80-84%

B: 70-79%

C: 60-69%

D: 50-59%

F: 50% -


Plus-Minuses for B through D grades will occur at the upper and lower 2.5% level. For example, 70-72.49 will be B-, 72.5-77.49 B, 77.5-79.9 B+ and so forth.




Polinsky, chs. 1,2

Friedman 1,2


Why law and economics?

A brief introduction to welfare economics


Property Rights


Friedman, ch. 10


Libecap, G. D. 1989. Contracting for the unitization of oil fields. In Contracting for Property Rights, 93-114. Cambridge, MA.: Cambridge University Press.


Anderson, G. M., and R. D. Tollison. 1985. Life in the Gulag: A Property Rights Perspective. Cato Journal 5 (1):295-304.


Anderson, T. L., and P. J. Hill. 1990. The Race for Property Rights. Journal of Law and Economics 33 (1):177-97.


Frey, B. S., and H. Buhofer. 1988. Prisoners and Property Rights. Journal of Law and Economics XXXI:19-46.


The Coase Theorem


Polinsky, ch. 3, Friedman 3, 4





Polinsky, ch.4, Friedman 5


Cases: Boomer v. Atlantic Cement 26 N.Y. 2d 219; (1970)

Spur Industries v. Del E. Webb Development Co. 108 Ariz. 178; (1972)




Polinsky, ch. 5,8

Friedman, ch. 12


Knapp, C. L. 1997. Contract law. In Fundamentals of American Law, ed. A. B. Morrison, 201-37. New York: Oxford University Press.


Landsburg, S. E. 1997. The marriage contract. Slate ( Sept. 11, 1997.


Brining, M. F. 1990. Rings and Promises. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 6 (1):203-15.


Peters, Elizabeth H. 1986. Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting The American Economic Review, Vol. 76, No. 3. (Jun., 1986), pp. 437-454.


Gawande, A. 1998. Organ Meat. and Epstein, R., and A. Gawande. 1998. Organ Peddling: A Debate. Slate Magazine (, June 3.


Cases: Alaska Packers AssN v. Domenico 117 F.99; 1902 U.S.

Goebel and Gorenflo v. Linn and Linn 47 Mich. 489, 11 N.W. 284 (1882)

Hadley v. Baxendale 9 Ex.341, 156 Eng. Rep. 145 (1854)

Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co., 350 F.2d 445 D.C. Cir. (1965)





Polinsky, chs 6,7,9

Friedman, ch. 14


Law, S. A. 1997. Torts. In Fundamentals of American Law, ed. A. B. Morrison, 239-61. New York: Oxford University Press.



Moran V. Faberge, Inc. 273 Md. 538, 332 A.2d 11 (1975)

Greenman V. Yuba Power Products, Inc. 59 Cal. 2d 57, 377 P.2d 897 (1962)


Behrens v. Bertram Mills Circus Ltd. 2 Q.B. 1 (1957) note that this is a British case look it up on Lexis/Nexis under Commonwealth countries.





Helland, E. and A. Tabarrok. 2002. The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards. American Law and Economics Review 4 (2): 341-370.



Product Liability Law


Polinksy, ch.13


Shapiro, C. 1991. Symposium On the Economics of Liability. Journal of Economic Perspectives 5 (3):3-10.


Lasagna, L. 1991. The chilling effect of product liability on new drug development. In The Liability Maze, ed. P. W. Huber and R. E. Litan, 334-59. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.


Helland, Eric. and Alexander Tabarrok. 2003. Race, Poverty, and American Tort Awards: Evidence from Three Datasets. Journal of Legal Studies 32 (2): 27-58.





Polinsky, ch. 10


DiIulio, J. J. J. 1996. Help Wanted: Economists, Crime and Public Policy. Journal of Economic Perspectives 10 (1):3-24.


Freeman, R. B. 1996. Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do About It? Journal of Economic Perspectives 10 (1):25-42.


Helland, E. and A. Tabarrok. 2004. Public versus Private Law Enforcement: Evidence from Bail Jumping. Journal of Law and Economics.


Klick, J. and A. Tabarrok. 2005. Using Terror Alert Levels to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime. Journal of Law and Economics. 48(1):


Donohue, John J. and S.D. Levitt. 2001. The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 116 (2) pp. 379-420