The Review of Austrian Economics

, Volume 20, Issue 2–3, pp 187–200 | Cite as

Value and exchange in law and economics: Buchanan versus posner

  • Alain MarcianoEmail author


Meir Kohn’s Exchange and Value claims that economics can be organised around two opposed paradigms, the exchange and the value paradigms. In this paper, we apply this dichotomy to characterize the analyses proposed by economists in the field known as “law and economics”. We compare and contrasts the perspectives proposed by two prominent scholars—James Buchanan and Richard Posner—and argue that they, respectively, represent the exchange and the value paradigm in law and economics. More precisely, we show that Buchanan sticks to a definition of economics based on the exchange paradigm, and this leads him to define law and economics in a rather specific, different, narrower than Posner’s way to define law and economics—a definition that corresponds to a conception of economics based on the value paradigm.


Political economy Law and economics Economic analysis of law Subject matter Buchanan Posner Exchange Value 

JEL codes




I thank all the participants for their remarks and suggestions. The text was completed while I was ICER fellow and stayed at the Department of Economics of the University of Torino. Particular thanks to Roger Backhouse, Mark Blaug, Deirdre McCloskey, Sophie Harnay, Uskali Maki, Steve G. Medema, Eric Schleisser, Jack Vromen, Richard E. Wagner, Giorgio Brosio and Enrico Colombatto. Earlier versions of this text were presented at a seminar held at the EIPE (University of Rotterdam) and at a seminar held at the Institute for Socio-Economic (University of Hambourg).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté des Sciences Économiques, Sociales et de GestionUniversité de Reims Champagne ArdenneReimsFrance

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