Positive, Normative and Functional Schools in Law and Economics


During its relatively short history, the law and economics movement has developed three distinct schools of thought. The first two schools of thought, often referred to as the Chicago or positive school and the Yale or normative school, developed almost concurrently. The functional school of law and economics, which developed subsequently, draws from public choice theory and the constitutional perspective of the Virginia school of economics to offer a third perspective which is neither fully positive nor fully normative. Various important methodological questions have accompanied the debate between these schools concerning the appropriate role of economic analysis in the institutional design of lawmaking and the limits of methods of evaluation of social preferences and aggregate welfare in policy analysis. These debates have contributed to the growing intellectual interest in the economic analysis of law.