David Singh Grewal, a law professor at Yale, and Jedediah Purdy, a law professor at Duke, recently posted this critique of law school education on their “Law and Political Economy” blog, using the famous “Coase theorem” as their straw man. In their words, here is what they have to say about the way the Coase theorem is taught to law students:
“… one might consider the framing effect of introducing law students in their training to the ‘Coase theorem,’ which invites them, in effect, to imagine a world in which everything is for sale and actually gets sold, and then to treat that world as a heuristic utopia. From then on in their education, they are cued to ask, ‘How might this law be a barrier to comprehensive market exchanges, and might we dismantle the barrier?’ Although law professors frequently hem in their Coase sessions with caveats, the prompt retains its grip. Imagine asking, instead or in addition, what a legal world of equals would look like, with genuine mutuality its rule of cooperation, and how any portion of law blocks us off from that world and might be overcome. *** So, you might notice that you are invited to consider the Coase theorem throughout law school, but not an equally utopian image of egalitarianism.”
Alas, Grewal and Purdy are guilty themselves of failing to imagine what “a society of equals” would look like, for nowhere in their screed — or in any of their multiple papers posted on SSRN for that matter — do they tell us how to build such a utopian world. We call bullshit!