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Monday, January 28, 2013

Quick Thoughts on George Mason LEC Workshop on the Economics of Contracting


PhotoI'm about to leave Fort Myers, Florida after a great weekend on Captiva Island, where I participated in the George Mason LEC Workshop for Law Professors on the Economics of Contracting. Economists sure know how to organize a workshop.  (By the way, the picture depicts a bird that was hanging out on the balcony of my hotel room).

Over at George Mason they understand incentives.  Participants pay a $500 deposit that is only refunded after all sessions (including dinners) are attended.  After attending all sessions, participants not only see a return of the deposit but additionally receive a $500 honorarium.  Lodging and all meals were covered and they couldn't have paid for better weather (on the day I got there the weather was about 70 degrees warmer than New York).  I am still waiting for someone to try to sell me a timeshare.

Broadly, the goal of the program is to expose legal academics to economics.  The homework (though voluminous) was thoughtfully compiled and the instruction was engaging.  Some participants were already fairly exposed to law and economics others (including myself) had tinkered on the margins in researching but had no background whatsoever.  I found the material and the teaching very accessible.

The discussion included contractual (and non-contractual) solutions to hold up problems and price readjustment.  We also discussed retail price maintenance and slotting fee contracts. I found the discussion of vertical integration most interesting, though I had to suspend my disbelief when told not to consider the liability implications of choosing to employ someone v. hire them as an indpendent contractor.  There were other times when I had to suspend disbelief about psychology and decisionmaking capacity.  So, I suppose this is the timeshare.  While I didn't buy it, I do feel enriched for having spent some time considering these problems through a classical economics lens.  

I highly recommend this and other George Mason programs to anyone with even a passing interest in economics.  I learned that reputation matters (though to varying degrees depending on which economists you read).  Whatever the case may be, George Mason deserves its excellent reputation for organizing these outstanding workshops.  Thanks!

[Meredith R. Miller]

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