Book Review - The Economics of Remedies


The Economics of Remedies (Economic Approaches to Law), edited by Ariel Porat.  Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2012.  Hardcover, 674 pages, $330.00.

The latest book in publisher Edward Elgar’s Economic Approaches to Law series follows the same general format of previous volumes.  It is a collection of leading articles on a topic.  They are selected, arranged and introduced by a scholar in the field.   In this case, the scholar is Ariel Porat, professor of law at both Tel Aviv University and University of Chicago.  He has published several books and articles, in both English and Hebrew, on a variety of topics related to the law of remedies.  In this volume, Porat brings together 18 articles spanning 40 years of scholarship on the topic of the economics of remedies related to tort and/or contract law.   As one would expect from an editor with Porat’s impressive credentials, these articles are well chosen and, according to Google Scholar, have been heavily cited to since their initial publication.  They are the “greatest hits” on the subject of the economics of remedies.   As such, they are readily available from their original sources and are most likely already accessible, albeit separately, in many law libraries.  Large academic libraries may want to purchase the book for the use of scholars who will find it to be a convenient collection. However, due to the lack of original content, I cannot recommend it for most libraries.

The book begins with an introduction by Porat.  In it, he explains the scope and content of the book.   In choosing articles, Porat sought a diversity of authors, preferred a more informal tone and a general rather than detailed approach to the topics presented.   These editorial choices ensure the articles can be understood by a larger audience and are applicable to wide variety of discussions about remedies. The book is organized into five sections that are briefly outlined in the introduction.   The first section contains four articles about property and liability rules.   The concept of efficient breach is addressed next.  The four articles in the second section discuss damages versus specific performance.  The third and fourth sections cover the issues of the measure of recovery and the scope of liability, respectively.  The fifth and final section contains two articles, including the editor’s own, on the topic of partial compensation.  The articles themselves follow this tidy introduction.  They are exact reprints and retain their original pagination.  Then the book ends.

Turning the last page of this hefty volume, I was surprised by the abrupt ending.  I expected more.  There is no index. There are no appendices or tables.  Other than the brief (8 page) introduction, there is no guide to the nearly 700 pages contained in the book.  Although expertly curated and engagingly introduced, without any of these additions, this is a simply a collection of reprints.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that.   The lack of original content may not be a problem for the scholar who studies the law of remedies and is familiar with many or most of the articles collected.   For them, the convenience of having these classic articles presented in one volume may be enough to justify its place on a bookshelf.  For most librarians, tasked with building and maintaining a relevant and useful collection with limited space and funds, it is not. 

Meredith Rossi is circulation/reference librarian at the New York University School of Law Library.