The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

457. Oren Bar-Gill and Chaim Fershtman, Law and Preferences, 02/2004; subsequently published in Journal of Law, Economics & Organization, Vol. 20, 2004, 331-352.

Abstract: Legal rules do more than provide incentives; they change people. When preferences and norms are endogenously determined via a process of imitation and learning, legal rules, by affecting the market outcome, may affect the dynamics of preference formation. Analyzing the effect of different legal rules should, therefore, go beyond the analysis of the incentives they provide. It should also include an analysis of their effect on the distribution of preferences and norms of behavior. We illustrate this claim by considering a simple market game in which individuals may have preferences that include fairness concerns. We show that different legal rules change not only the pattern of trade in a market game, but also the individuals' fairness concern. That is, different rules may eventually make individuals care more (or less) about a fair outcome. Specifically, our model suggests that enhanced remedies for breach of contract may reduce equilibrium preferences for fairness.

457: PDF