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Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Economics

Marginalism

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Regulation And The Marginalist Revolution, Herbert J. Hovenkamp May 2018

Regulation And The Marginalist Revolution, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The marginalist revolution in economics became the foundation for the modern regulatory State with its “mixed” economy. Marginalism, whose development defines the boundary between classical political economy and neoclassical economics, completely overturned economists’ theory of value. It developed in the late nineteenth century in England, the Continent and the United States. For the classical political economists, value was a function of past averages. One good example is the wage-fund theory, which saw the optimal rate of wages as a function of the firm’s ability to save from previous profits. Another is the theory of corporate finance, which assessed a ...


The Progressives: Economics, Science, And Race, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Dec 2015

The Progressives: Economics, Science, And Race, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This essay is a brief review of Thomas C. Leonard, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era (Princeton Univ. Press 2016).


The Marginalist Revolution In Corporate Finance: 1880-1965, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2011

The Marginalist Revolution In Corporate Finance: 1880-1965, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fundamental changes in economic thought revolutionized the theory of corporate finance, leading to changes in its legal regulation. The changes were massive, and this branch of financial analysis and law became virtually unrecognizable to those who had practiced it earlier. The source of this revision was the marginalist, or neoclassical, revolution in economic thought. The classical theory had seen corporate finance as an historical, relatively self-executing inquiry based on the classical theory of value and administered by common law courts. By contrast, neoclassical value theory was forward looking and as a result ...


A Preface To Neoclassical Legal Thought, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jun 2011

A Preface To Neoclassical Legal Thought, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Most legal historians speak of the period following classical legal thought as “progressive legal thought.” That term creates an unwarranted bias in characterization, however, creating the impression that conservatives clung to an obsolete “classical” ideology, when in fact they were in many ways just as revisionist as the progressives legal thinkers whom they critiqued. The Progressives and New Deal thinkers whom we identify with progressive legal thought were nearly all neoclassical, or marginalist, in their economics, but it is hardly true that all marginalists were progressives. For example, the lawyers and policy makers in the corporate finance battles of the ...


The Law Of Vertical Integration And The Business Firm: 1880-1960, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2010

The Law Of Vertical Integration And The Business Firm: 1880-1960, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Vertical integration occurs when a firm does something for itself that it could otherwise procure on the market. For example, a manufacturer that opens its own stores is said to be vertically integrated into distribution. One irony of history is that both classical political economy and neoclassicism saw vertical integration and vertical contractual arrangements as much less threatening to competition than cartels or other horizontal arrangements. Nevertheless, vertical integration has produced by far the greater amount of legislation at both federal and state levels and has motivated many more political action groups. Two things explain this phenomenon. First, while economists ...


United States Competition Policy In Crisis: 1890-1955, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2009

United States Competition Policy In Crisis: 1890-1955, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The development of marginalist, or neoclassical, economics led to a fifty-year long crisis in competition theory. Given an industrial structure with sufficient fixed costs, competition always became "ruinous," forcing firms to cut prices to marginal cost without sufficient revenue remaining to pay off investment. Early neoclassicists such as Alfred Marshall were not able to solve this problem, and as a result many economists were hostile toward the antitrust laws in the early decades of the twentieth century. The ruinous competition debate came to an abrupt end in the early 1930's, when Joan Robinson and particularly Edward Chamberlin developed models ...


Neoclassicism And The Separation Of Ownership And Control, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2009

Neoclassicism And The Separation Of Ownership And Control, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

"Separation of ownership and control" is a phrase whose history will forever be associated with Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means' The Modern Corporation and Private Property (1932), as well as with Institutionalist economics, Legal Realism, and the New Deal. Within that milieu the large publicly held business corporation became identified with excessive managerial power at the expense of stockholders, social irresponsibility, and internal inefficiency. Neoclassical economists both then and ever since have generally been critical, both of the historical facts that Berle and Means purported to describe and of the conclusions that they drew. In fact, however, within ...


The Coase Theorem And Arthur Cecil Pigou, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Dec 2008

The Coase Theorem And Arthur Cecil Pigou, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In "The Problem of Social Cost" Ronald Coase was highly critical of the work of Cambridge University Economics Professor Arthur Cecil Pigou, presenting him as a radical government interventionist. In later work Coase's critique of Pigou became even more strident. In fact, however, Pigou's Economics of Welfare created the basic model and many of the tools that Coase's later work employed. Much of what we today characterize as the "Coase Theorem," including the relevance of transaction costs, externalities, and bilateral monopoly, was either stated or anticipated in Pigou's work. Further, Coase's extreme faith in private ...


Knowledge About Welfare: Legal Realism And The Separation Of Law And Economics, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2000

Knowledge About Welfare: Legal Realism And The Separation Of Law And Economics, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The welfare state could not function without judgments about how well off its citizens are. For example, governments devise progressive income taxes, which are designed to capture more wealth from the well off and less from the impecunious. These policies presume an ability to take a manageable amount of information about an individual's income or assets and make judgments about her welfare. In fact, people do this all the time, mostly without thinking about the methodological problems involved.

The superficial casualness of our daily observations about welfare belies the state of the economic science of welfare measurement. Economists have ...


The First Great Law & Economics Movement, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 1990

The First Great Law & Economics Movement, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Beginning in the 1880s American economists turned their attention to the law in a way unprecedented in American thought. Some legal academics in turn incorporated economics into their thinking about the law. Whether their output or its impact were great enough to warrant calling their efforts a law and economics "movement" is worth debating. This essay argues that there was such a movement.

Four things account for the increasing interest in law and economics at the turn of the century: (1) the widespread application of evolutionary models to the development of both law and economic theory; (2) the influence of ...