Why are there civil rights laws? What should their scope and coverage be? What are their weaknesses? How can they be improved? In answering these questions, I concentrate on employment and on race in the United States. Following Sophia Moreau, I argue that civil rights laws are ways of assigning rights that are needed when groups are victims of pervasive discrimination. Empirical economic work shows that blacks and Hispanics probably meet the relevant conditions for coverage under these laws, but whites (at least white males) do not. Civil rights laws are hard to enforce, and should cover as many different domains of life as possible because coverage in each domain is complementary with coverage in others. Existing laws do not seem sufficient to assure blacks and Hispanics of the deliberative freedoms that Moreau enunciates, and so I speculate on alternative approaches.
Richard J. Sweeney
For economics, finance, and business purposes, constitutional transparency largely means predictability. Decisions to change a constitution can result in type I errors—accepting changes that do not improve welfare—or type II errors—rejecting a change that would improve welfare. Virtually all written constitutions can change formally through amendments or implicitly through high court interpretations. Evidence shows the two-stage US amendment process is less likely to make type I and type II errors than Supreme Court interpretations. Elites propose European Union (EU) constitutional changes and much the same elites accept them; the procedure appears two-stage but is close to single-stage. Supreme Court, EU, and UK constitutional changes are essentially single-stage procedures, relying on elites. Of the 24 countries and the European Union discussed here, 11 use a two-stage procedure. A wisdom-of-crowds argument supports multistage processes.
Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina
Welfare economics—the normative branch of economics—is a consequentialist moral theory. Unlike deontological morality, at least in its basic form it attributes no intrinsic value to prohibitions on active or intentional harming of other people, lying, or promise-breaking, and does not allow people to prioritize their own interests over the overall good. The chapter critically examines several methods of incorporating deontological constraints and options into economic analysis of law and into welfare economics more generally. These methods include an analysis of the long-term and indirect effects of apparently efficient infringements of deontological constraints; a move from act- to rule-consequentialism; incorporating deontological concerns into the definition of good outcomes that should be maximized; and the treatment of moral judgments as preferences whose fulfillment should be maximized along with any other. In addition to these indirect ways, the chapter also examines the integration of thresholds constraints and options into economic analysis of law.
John B. Davis
This chapter examines economists’ indefensible attachment to the positive–normative distinction, and suggests a behavioral economics explanation of their behavior on the subject. It traces the origins of the distinction to Hume’s guillotine and logical positivism, and argues they contributed to Robbins’ understanding of value neutrality. It connects philosophers’ rejection of logical positivism and their rejection of the positive-normative distinction, explains and modifies Putnam’s view of fact–value entanglement, and identifies four main ethical value judgments that contemporary economists employ. The behavioral explanation of economists’ denial of these value judgments emphasizes loss aversion and economists’ social identity as economists.
The past decade has seen a dramatic surge in women entering the labor force, accompanied by significant changes in gender roles within the family, the workplace, and society as a whole. These developments have elicited growing academic interest and prompted proposals for legal and policy reforms designed to improve outcomes for women, families, and everyone else. This chapter explores some aspects of recent work in this area, with emphasis on the economic analysis of the interplay between labor markets and family roles. Topics discussed include household decision-making models; division of labor within households; theoretical approaches to explaining why women differ on average from men in their choices for balancing paid work and unpaid domestic labor; and two important legal protections for American women with caregiving responsibilities—the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.