Thursday, August 2, 2012

Robert D. Cooter & Hans-Bernd Schäfer, "Solomon's Knot: How Law Can End the Poverty of Nations"

Princeton University Press
August 2012

Sustained growth depends on innovation, whether it's cutting-edge software from Silicon Valley, an improved assembly line in Sichuan, or a new export market for Swaziland's leather. Developing a new idea requires money, which poses a problem of trust. The innovator must trust the investor with his idea and the investor must trust the innovator with her money. Robert Cooter and Hans-Bernd Schäfer call this the "double trust dilemma of development." Nowhere is this problem more acute than in poorer nations, where the failure to solve it results in stagnant economies.

In Solomon's Knot, Cooter and Schäfer propose a legal theory of economic growth that details how effective property, contract, and business laws help to unite capital and ideas. They also demonstrate why ineffective private and business laws are the root cause of the poverty of nations in today's world. Without the legal institutions that allow innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive, other attempts to spur economic growth are destined to fail.

Robert D. Cooter is the Herman F. Selvin Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Strategic Constitution (Princeton). Hans-Bernd Schäfer is professor of law and economics at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany, and professor emeritus at the University of Hamburg. His books include The Economic Analysis of Civil Law.


Growth spurts that catapult a country or region to economic preeminence are fascinating but poorly understood. Cooter and Schäfer show that such spurts tend to track legal changes that facilitate the protection of property, the enforcement of contracts, and, most important, the launching of innovative business ventures. Consistently creative, insightful, and entertaining, Solomon's Knot makes a major contribution to the growing literature on the evolution of international differences in wealth."
Timur Kuran, Duke University

Cooter and Schäfer provide a thorough introduction to growth economics through the lens of law and economics. They do a masterful job of weaving in historical anecdotes from all over the world, detailed discussions of historical transformations, theoretical literature, empirical studies, and numerous clever hypotheticals. Scholars as well as general readers will find this book to be very useful and informative.
Henry N. Butler, George Mason University

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