Goodbye to the Best of Law & Economics: Warren Samuels 1933-2011

Martha T. McCluskey

I just now learned of the death last month of Warren J. Samuels, who in in my book was the best law and economics scholar of the last half century or so, and certainly one of the most prolific, knowledgeable and wide-ranging (see link to his cv).  How shameful that his foundational work has been virtually ignored in the mainstream Law and Economics movement, even in its purportedly more progressive and heterodox corners.

A few of Samuels’ legal classics: Maximization of Wealth as Justice:  An Essay on Posnerian Law and Economics as Policy Analysis (book review) 60 Texas Law Review 147 (1981); and The Legal-Economic Nexis, 57 George Washington Law Review, 1556 (1988-89).   And I look forward to reading his just published Erasing the Invisible Hand: Essays on an Elusive and Misused Concept in Economics (Cambridge, 2011).

Samuels’ work should be required reading in every law and economics course and by every legal scholar interested in economics.   What a different world we might live in if Samuels, rather than Henry Manne and other right-wing-funded promoters of the “free market,” had had the power and funding to educate the last few generations of legal scholars, judges, attorneys, and politicians in economic policy. Samuels was active in the 1970s critical legal studies movement, a leader in developing the field of history of economics, an expert on public utility law, and a generous mentor to several generations of heterodox economists.   Let’s belatedly give Samuels the prominence in law he deserves.

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