PCPE 2012

PCPE 2012—Guido Calabresi's 80th Birthday Conference

The 8th annual Prague Conference on Political Economy (October 26-8, 2012)  with a title “Interdisciplinarity, the future of Social Sciences?” hosted more than 100 participants from more than a dozen countries from all over the world including scholars from Europe, U.S., Canada, Argentina, Australia or  the Philippines. Over 40 papers were presented covering law-and-economics, political science, legal theory, economic history, economic theory, policy and methodology.

The most memorable part of PCPE 2012 was the symposium  "Law and Economics as an Applied Science. The Legacy of Guido Calabresi" which was organized to celebrate the seminal work and the 80th birthday of GUIDO CALABRESI, professor at Yale University and Judge of  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. During this symposium professor CALABRESI gave a talk „The Place of Torts in Law and Economics:  The Significance of the Liability Rule“ and several leading scholars in the field presented their papers on particular aspects of Guido Calabresi’s work including  ENRICO COLOMBATTO, Universitŕ di Torino; DAVID DRIESEN,  Syracuse University; MARC GEISTFELD, New York University; JAMES HACKNEY JR., Northeastern University; LAURA KALMAN, University of California at Santa Barbara; ALAIN MARCIANO, Université de Montpellier 1; STEVE MEDEMA, University of Colorado; GIOVANNI B. RAMELLO, Universitŕ del Piemonte Orientale; KIP VISCUSI, Vanderbilt University.

Audio/video recordings—PCPE 2012

Symposium "Law and Economics as an Applied Science. The Legacy of Guido Calabresi"

Calabresi in Context

Calabresi and Coase on accidents and tort

After Calabresi

After each talk a comment by professor Calabresi follows as well as a short discussion.

The contributions of the symposium will appear in vol. 76 of Law and Contemporary Problems, the oldest journal published at Duke Law School.


Full photogallery can be found on our facebook profile.

Schedule PCPE 2012


Symposium Abstract:

There is no doubt that “law and economics” or “economic analysis of law” are now well established scientific approaches, settled in our intellectual landscape. Their importance is not only theoretical but also — and quite importantly — practical. This perspective is so relevant to deal with problems arising from everyday life interaction of human beings embedded in a given legal setting, to become a sort of programmatic issue for law practitioners and scholars. Indeed, the use of economics — economic reasoning and economic modeling — as a tool to tackle otherwise difficult and complex legal problems is frequent, to say the least. Moreover, economic courses play currently an important role in the formation of judges and legal scholars. All this is the result of a movement that was initiated before the second world war, became structured in the 1950s and took shape in the 1960s and 1970s essentially under the influence of the economists and legal scholars of the University of Chicago or that can be linked to Chicago. However, without questioning the importance of that tradition, one cannot acknowledge the current intense interplay between law and economics without recognizing the seminal contribution by the “outsider” Guido Calabresi. The latter, as early as in 1961, with the contribution “Some Thoughts on Risk Distribution and the Law of Tort”, provided the means for transforming the Chicagoan approach into a robust and practical methodology for confronting real problems, as he himself argued, “in terms which are intelligible to law teachers, if not to lawyers, and without that suicidal desire of the economist to make his theory so pervasive and detailed that it is rendered utterly useless to the lawyer who lives in the real world of men, and even to the law teacher, wherever he lives” (Calabresi, 1961, p. 500).

Thus, it appears that, by contrast with economists or legal scholars such as Harold Demsetz or Richard Posner, Calabresi did not claim that economics could be used as a criterion of justice. The allocation of resources was an important element to take into account by judges but it was to be completed by other elements. By contrast with Ronald Coase, for instance, Calabresi did not claim that markets were always efficient; more precisely, the conditions for market efficiency were stronger than the conditions put forward by Coase and this led Calabresi to conclude that market efficiency was not empirically valid. By contrast with what most economists argue, Calabresi did not believe in individual rationality and — somehow anticipating the findings of behavioral law and economics — claimed that individuals are less rational than what economists normally believe. These are some of the major elements that Calabresi used to built “niche” (to use Laura Kalman's words) at Yale where he developed his own,
The purpose of this symposium is to focus on Guido's Calabresi “economic analysis of law” starting from his 1961 seminal contribution. Our purpose is to discuss Calabresi's specific way of applying economics to analyze legal problems. We propose to offer a discussion with many dimensions and objectives. A first objective of the symposium will thus be to locate Calabresi's work in an historical perspective – something which has never be really and precisely be done – in order to understand how his work was made possible in the context of the 1960s, how the Yale tradition was maintained in front of the Chicagoan tradition and how Calabresi's work compares to Coase's or Posner's works. Second, of course, we plan to have a discussion of how Calabresi's views, theories were and how useful they were and how different they are from the rules that are used by judges and legal decision makers. Actually, the pioneer attitude of Calabresi in using economics for “analyzing” legal problems and providing normative solution, namely the determination of a liability rule in case of accidents and nuisance, has become a benchmark for subsequent developments. For instance, one may note that Calabresi’s “Some Thoughts on Risk Distribution and the Law of Tort” highlighted the potential role of tort liability in terms of its insurance function as a risk spreading device. Is it the case that liability indeed serve an insurance function?

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Josef Šíma, president of PCPE at josef.sima@vsci.cz