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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article sketches the distinct perspective that a contractarian approach can bring to law and economics. It focuses on a particularly important strand of the contractarian tradition: the constitutional political economy (CPE) research program (also known as constitutional economics), developed most fully in the work of Nobel laureate James Buchanan. Like law and economics, the CPE paradigm is primarily concerned with the comparative analysis of social, economic, and political institutions. But its foundational assumptions offer a distinct contrast to the mainstream neoclassical paradigm that has dominated law and economics as a field. The article first provides a brief overview of contractarian approaches. It then describes the central features of the CPE paradigm. It contrasts the foundations of the CPE approach with those of neo-classical economics; explores the implications of these differences for the research foci at the heart of these two traditions; and discusses how mainstream and constitutional economics approaches may be reconciled.

Keywords: contractarianism, law, economics, constitutional political economy, constitutional economics, neo-classical economics

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