Saturday, July 29, 2006
Yesterday's post, "Summer Reading," listed some recent novels by law professors. I'm certain that I left out many books, but I'm most distressed to have left out one of my favorite novels of last year -- In the Shadow of the Law by Kermit Roosevelt, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. It is a wonderfully good read. Indeed, I used a portion of the book -- pp. 128 - 31 -- as part of my final exam in law and economics. The pages describe a colloquy between a lawyer and a judge regarding the appropriate amount of precaution for an automobile manufacturer to have built into a car and, given that different manufactures build different amounts of safety into their cars and that safer cars cost more, whether consumers then knowingly and rationally purchase the amount of precaution that gives them the greatest utility. The lawyer, representing the defendant-auto manufacturer, makes a law-and-economics argument that the plaintiffs bought a low-precaution car at a low price, thereby knowingly assuming the risk of injury and cannot now ask for relief. The judge appears to make mincemeat of this argument. I invited the students to rewrite Harold's argument against the manufacturer's being held liable, making a better argument. I hope that my appending those three pages (here: Download roosevelt.Excerpt.Shadow.Law and Econ Colloquy.pdf) will be interpreted as educational fair use.