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Vogel Book Prize winner Ejan Mackaay on an award that celebrates the link between legal theory and practice

January 31, 2014

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Ejan Mackaay at 2013 Prix Vogel ceremony

Ejan Mackaay at the 2013 Prix Vogel ceremony
Photo courtesy of Hamilton de Oliveira, Agence REA

The introduction to Ejan Mackaay’s latest book Law and Economics for Civil Law Systems begins:

Can the law do everything?

‘[..] it is a fundamental principle with the English Lawyers, that Parliament can do every thing, except making a Woman a Man, or a Man a Woman’ de Lolme wrote in 1771. He meant to express the supremacy of the English Parliament. Two centuries on, medical science has advanced on making a Woman a Man, or a Man a Woman, and the power of Parliament is no longer considered as absolute as it then looked, but is limited by fundamental rights defined in constitutions, charters and international conventions that the courts have the power to apply against acts of Parliament.

But de Lolme’s saying lends itself to a different reading as well: law can do everything. To bring about any desired social effect, on this view, it suffices to legislate it. To judge by the staggering pace at which legislation is being produced these days, modern governments appear to draw their inspiration from this second reading. A positivist approach to law handily complements this line of thinking. Yet the very fact that such massive amounts of legislation appear to be necessary suggests that citizens are not playing the game; that law cannot produce every effect considered desirable. [Click here to read the rest of the Introduction].

On 12 December, the book was awarded the 2013 Vogel Book Prize for Economic Law. In this article, the author Ejan Mackaay discusses potential implications of this award for French civil law scholarship.


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