IV Rodolfo Debenedetti Lecture – Andrei Shleifer

The Meaning of Legal Origin

IV Rodolfo Debenedetti Lecture, Milan

18 March 2005


Bocconi University



Andrei Shleifer (Harvard University)

Introduction: Francesco Denozza (University of Milan) and Luigi Spaventa (University of Rome “La Sapienza”)

The fourth Ing. Rodolfo Debenedetti Lecture will be given by prof. Andrei Shleifer from Harvard University. The lecture will be introduced by prof Francesco Denozza (Università degli Studi di Milano) and by prof. Luigi Spaventa (Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”).
Below you can find a brief outline of the lecture written by the author. At the bottom of the page you can download the poster of the event.


Market economies differ from each other in many fundamental ways: their legal systems, regulatory structures, levels of economic and political freedom, corruption in government, and so on. Are these differences systematic and, if so, can we understand them?

I will show that countries whose legal systems derive from different European traditions rely on systematically distinct strategies of social control of private life. Common law countries tend to rely on private contracting and ex post dispute resolution in courts; civil law – and particularly French civil law – countries on ex ante government regulation and oversight. Around the world, these differences are apparent in such diverse areas as regulation of entry by new firms, regulation of labor markets, the military draft, and financial development.

I will present evidence documenting these observations, and a theoretical framework unifying them.

Andrei Shleifer