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The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics, Second Edition

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This thoroughly updated and revised edition of a popular and authoritative reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant issues, and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed yet theoretically congruent ideas.
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Chapter 7: Family

Margaret Brinig


Margaret Brinig Introduction The idea of thinking of families in economic terms is not new, but dates back at least to the time of Aristotle, whose Econœmeia meant ‘management of the household’ (Spiegel, 1983, p. 25), and whose views on affection between the generations are cited even today by law and economics scholars such as Richard Posner (Posner, 1996). The patriarchal family was used as a metaphor for the monarchy by William Filmer in the seventeenth century (Filmer, 1653), a theory debunked by John Locke, who, in writing his Second Treatise on Government (Locke, 1689, pp. 179–87), laid out much of the foundation for the later work of William Blackstone, a lawyer, whose contractarian notion of the implicit contract between parent and child appears in much of the law and economics literature on family relationships (Blackstone, 1765). Similarly, David Hume’s (1761) writing about the need for marital exclusivity, particularly on the part of the wife, sounds an economic chord, for he bases his suggestion on the requirement of the husband to support the wife’s offspring. Another contractual writing about the family comes from Sir Matthew Hale, a British jurist whose statement about the impossibility of spousal rape stemmed from the wife’s having, by her marriage, given an irrevocable consent to intercourse with her husband. The nineteenth-century economic writings of British and American authors Harriet Martineau (1889) and Catharine Beecher (1841) relate women’s participation in the home economy to their political and social roles. Beecher’s A Treatise on Domestic...

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