May 27, 2006
Jagdeep noted that he has been out of the country and won't resume blogging till about now. I haven't been blogging because I've been frantically trying to finish grading papers and exams. (This is the only truly bad part about being a law professor.) I'm out of the country -- in Zurich -- for about a week before returning to Chicago for a conference largely organized by my colleague Lee Fennell on the commons and the anticommons. While I'm in Switzerland, I'm going to be teaching a short course to a law faculty on law and economics. I'll share some of my impressions after our first class on Monday. Later in the week I'll blog from the commons-anticommons conference.
In the meantime, let me pass on the news that In passing through London on my way to Zurich I noticed that Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics is out in paperback in England, published by Penguin, and is the number 1 or 2 best-selling paperback in most stores I visited.
May 18, 2006
Do Economists Make Better Lawyers
Here is the abstract of an interesting Journal of Economic Education article that suggests lawyers with economics training earn higher salaries:
Do Economists Make Better Lawyers? Undergraduate Degree Field and Lawyer Earnings, by R. Kim Craft and Joe G. Baker
Abstract: Using nationally representative data, the authors examine the effects of preprofessional education on the earnings of lawyers. They specify and estimate a statistical earnings function on the basis of well-established theory and principles. Along with standard control variables, categorical variables are included to represent graduate degrees in addition to the law degree and an assortment of undergraduate major fields. Holding a Ph.D. or M.B.A. degree, with the law degree, is associated with significantly higher earnings in some sectors. Lawyers with undergraduate training in economics earn more than other lawyers, ceteris paribus, and economics is the only undergraduate field associated with earnings that differ significantly. The available evidence supports the hypothesis that economics training increases a lawyer’s human capital compared with other undergraduate majors.
I shall be out of the country till May 26 with limited internet access. Regular posts will resume after that.
May 14, 2006
A colleague and I were thinking of developing an online course in the basics of economtric methods for law teachers specifically, so that they would be able to do empirical research on their own (from start to finish; i.e. data downloads, input into programs such as E-Views, and basic regression and similar techniques). The are about 8000 or so law professors in the US and many more elsewhere. But, nevertheless the market is not very large. Having spent time in social sciences and in hard sciences, I am aware that grant money is difficult to come by unless one wants to do applied (empirical) work. Grant funds are the exception in the law, not the norm as in physics or medicine.
May 7, 2006
Undocumented Aliens and International Law
I wonder if there has been any action filed by or on behalf of undocumented aliens under the Alien Tort statute. There have been quite a few actions under the ATS for human rights violations, usually involving torture etc. But, if illegal aliens are held in sem-servitude and/or or paid unlawfully law wages, and IF the US has ratified the appropriate ILO Convention, the latter is a source of international law. Wouldn't that allow such an illegal alien to bring an action under the ALS, imstead of just the FLSA for example? TU, what do you think?
May 3, 2006
The legalization of addictive drugs, such as heroin, marijuana, and cocaine, is a topic of vigorous classroom discussion. But the issue has not yet risen to be a matter of public or serious political debate in the U.S. Although the topic has been quiescent in U.S. political discussions, Mexico has recently legalized the possession of small amounts of addictive drugs, and the city council of Vancouver, British Columbia, has also recently debated drug legalization.
Three prominent economists -- Gary Becker, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Grossman -- have recently published a very important article on this topic: "The Market for Illegal Goods: The Case of Drugs," 114 J. Pol. Econ. 38 (2006). The article makes an eloquent case for "legalization, regulation, and taxation" as a far more efficient method of dealing with the social costs of addictive drugs than the current (and long ineffectual) policy.
Here are some excerpts from the article's abstract and introductory section:
"We show that the more inelastic either demand for or supply of a good is, the greater the increase in social cost from further reducing its production by greater enforcement efforts. So, optimal public expenditures on apprehension and conviction of illegal suppliers depend not only on the difference between the social and private values from consumption but also on these elasticities. When demand and supply are not too elastic, it does not pay to enforce any prohibition unless the social value is negative. We also show that a monetary tax could cause a grater reduction in output and increase in price than optimal enforcement against the same good would if it were illegal, even though some producers my go underground to avoid a monetary tax. When enforcement is costly, excise taxes and quantity restrictions are not equivalent."
"Section VI considers whether governments should try to discourage consumption of goods through advertising, as in the 'just say no' campaign against drug use. Our analysis implies that such advertising campaigns can be useful against illegal goods that require enforcement expenditures to discourage production. However, they are generally not desirable against legal goods when consumption is discouraged through optimal monetary taxes. ... When demand is inelastic, quantity reductions through enforcement against illegal producers are very costly and can be disastrous."