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Economics and the rule of law

posted 11 Jan 2011, 18:37 by Jess Maher

“AM I the only economist guilty of using the term [rule of law] without having a good fix on what it really means?” asks Dani Rodrik of Harvard University. “Well, maybe the first one to confess to it.”

The rule of law is usually thought of as a political or legal matter. The world's newest country, Kosovo, says its priority is to improve the rule of law in order to reduce corruption and build up the state. But in the past ten years the rule of law has become important in economics too. Indeed, it has become the motherhood and apple pie of development economics—which makes Mr Rodrik's confession the more striking. The rule of law is held to be not only good in itself, because it embodies and encourages a just society, but also a cause of other good things, notably growth. “No other single political ideal has ever achieved global endorsement,” says Brian Tamanaha, a legal scholar at St John's University, New York.

Mar 13th 2008 | from PRINT EDITION