26 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1414 (1995-1996)
Book Review

handle is hein.journals/shlr26 and id is 1432 raw text is: BOOK REVIEW

University Press, Cambridge (1995) (361 pages) ($35.00
Reviewed by CraigJ Albert*
One advantage of having a simple world view is that it allows
one to organize one's life into neat little compartments. It is not
surprising, then, that many legal scholars seek simple organizing
principles by which to analyze complicated legal issues. Simple ex-
planations are inherently satisfying, and scientists dub the most
beautiful and simple of them elegant. In a broad sense, the
drive for simplicity has been the motivating force behind the major
movements in legal scholarship of this century, beginning with
Legal Realism. It is natural and understandable to long for the
good old days.
It is fair to say, then, that Richard Epstein's Simple Rules for a
Complex World treads old ground in its effort to reduce law to some
small, easily understood group of rules against which to measure
behavior. This is both a blessing and a bane. As a framework
against which to analyze discrete problems, his approach is a valua-
ble one, couched as it is in classical microeconomic theory
presented in a nontechnical narrative. But untested and unques-
tioned in this approach is the wealth of unrealistic assumptions
which underlie the classical approach. What we get is a series of
thought experiments, applied to a few discrete areas of law which
are anathema to Epstein (such as regulatory takings, fiduciary obli-
gations within the corporation, and antidiscrimination laws, to
name a few), which make sense as intermediate microeconomic
theory exam questions, but have little applicability to the world in
which we live. Thus, while Epstein's arguments are provocative
starting points for discussion, they are unlikely to win over any
We live in an economist's second-best world. It is second-best
* Associate Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law. J.D., Ge-
orgetown University Law Center; M.Phil., MA. Yale University; S.B. Massachusetts In-
stitute of Technology. Thanks to Michael Zimmer, Ahmed Bulbulia, Michael Meurer,
Simon Evenett, and Adrienne B. Koch for helpful comments.


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