The best books on ethics and economics

Why are we passionate about this?

We are law professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Eyal Zamir is interested in the intersections of law, economics, ethics, and psychology. In addition to theoretical studies of these issues, he engages in experimental legal studies, as well. Barak Medina studies constitutional law, human rights, and economic analysis of law. He is interested in constitutional interpretation and the interaction between common-sense morality, public opinion and adjudication.


We wrote...

Law, Economics, and Morality

By Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina,

Book cover of Law, Economics, and Morality

What is our book about?

Standard economic analysis rests on consequentialist morality, namely the belief that only the consequences of any act, rule, or anything else determine its desirability. In contrast, according to prevailing moral convictions, there are constraints on attaining the best outcomes, including the prohibitions on deliberately harming other people, lying, and promise-breaking. Such constraints may be overridden only if enough good (or bad) is at stake.

In our book, we offer an analytical framework that combines the methodological advantages of economic cost-benefit analysis with the recognition of moral constraints. We then demonstrate the fruitfulness of applying this framework to numerous issues in legal policy-making, including the fight against terrorism, antidiscrimination law, and legal paternalism.

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Why did I love this book?

The book provides an excellent introduction to the philosophical foundations of economic analysis as a normative theory of human behavior and as a tool for public policy making.

It lucidly explains and criticizes the building blocks of welfare economics – the normative branch of economic analysis.

By Daniel Hausman, Michael McPherson, Debra Satz

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book shows through argument and numerous policy-related examples how understanding moral philosophy can improve economic analysis, how moral philosophy can benefit from economists' analytical tools, and how economic analysis and moral philosophy together can inform public policy. Part I explores the idea of rationality and its connections to ethics, arguing that when they defend their formal model of rationality, most economists implicitly espouse contestable moral principles. Part II addresses the nature and measurement of welfare, utilitarianism and cost-benefit analysis. Part III discusses freedom, rights, equality, and justice - moral notions that are relevant to evaluating policies, but which have…


Book cover of On Ethics & Economics

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Why did I love this book?

This short book by Nobel Prize winner, the philosopher and economist Amartya Sen, critically analyzes the simplifying assumptions underlying standard economic analysis, such as that people are only interested in advancing their own interests, the undesirable ramifications of these assumptions, and ways to improve economic analysis.

At the same time, the book points to the potential contribution of the economic approach to the study of ethics.

By Amartya K. Sen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Ethics & Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this elegant critique, Amartya Sen argues that a closer contact between welfare economics and modern ethical studies can substantively enrich and benefit both disciplines.He argues further that even predictive and descriptive economics can be helped by making more room for welfare economic considerations in the explanation of behavior, especially in production relations, which inevitably involve problems of cooperation as well as conflict. The concept of rationality of behaviour is thoroughly proved in this context, with particular attention paid to social interdependence and internal tensions within consequentialist reasoning. In developing his general theme, Sen also investigates some related matters: the…


Book cover of The Future of Law and Economics: Essays in Reform and Recollection

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Why did I love this book?

In the past fifty years, economic analysis has contributed immensely to legal theory – in fact, it transformed the way legal scholars think about law, primarily in North America but increasingly around the globe.

In this book, one of the founding fathers of this school of thought takes stock of the contributions, limitations, and possible routes to advance law and economics.

Specifically, Calabresi tackles the normative shortcomings of economic analysis as a normative theory, considers ways to overcome these challenges, and highlights the ways in which law and legal thinking can contribute to positive and normative economic analysis.

By Guido Calabresi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Future of Law and Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a concise, compelling argument, one of the founders and most influential advocates of the law and economics movement divides the subject into two separate areas, which he identifies with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The first, Benthamite, strain, "economic analysis of law," examines the legal system in the light of economic theory and shows how economics might render law more effective. The second strain, law and economics, gives equal status to law, and explores how the more realistic, less theoretical discipline of law can lead to improvements in economic theory. It is the latter approach that Judge Calabresi…


Book cover of Economic Fables

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Why did I love this book?

One of the world’s leading microeconomic scholars presents in this fascinating book brilliant insights about economic theory and its role in public policy.

Rubinstein challenges several central tenets of game theory, and sheds light on the role economics can and should play in society at large. The book presents economic theory through a series of fables.

The stories provide the basic insights of economics, but also enables us to critically evaluate the effect of implicit assumptions on the predictive power of economic theory and its moral implications.

By Ariel Rubinstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Economic Fables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I had the good fortune to grow up in a wonderful area of Jerusalem, surrounded by a diverse range of people: Rabbi Meizel, the communist Sala Marcel, my widowed Aunt Hannah, and the intellectual Yaacovson. As far as I'm concerned, the opinion of such people is just as authoritative for making social and economic decisions as the opinion of an expert using a model." Part memoir, part crash-course in economic theory, this deeply engaging book by one of the world's foremost economists looks at economic ideas through a personal lens. Together with an introduction to some of the central concepts…


Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Why did I love this book?

This collection of essays by some of the leading contemporary scholars in ethics and in economics provides both critical surveys of the various interactions between these two bodies of thought and original suggestions for future advancements in this important intersection.

The collection includes both general and theoretical inquiries and more specific applications. It may be of interest both to academics (scholars and students) and to policymakers and laypersons.

By Mark D. White (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Economics and ethics are both valuable tools for analyzing the behavior and actions of human beings and institutions. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, considered them two sides of the same coin, but since economics was formalized and mathematicised in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the fields have largely followed separate paths.

The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics provides a timely and thorough survey of the various ways ethics can, does, and should inform economic theory and practice. The first part of the book, Foundations, explores how the most prominent schools of moral philosophy relate to economics;…


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By Wendy Lee Hermance,

Book cover of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

Wendy Lee Hermance Author Of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

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Why am I passionate about this?

Wendy Lee Hermance was heard on National Public Radio (NPR) stations with her Missouri Folklore series in the 1980s. She earned a journalism degree from Stephens College, served as Editor and Features Writer for Midwestern and Southern university and regional publications, then settled into writing real estate contracts. In 2012 she attended University of Sydney, earning a master’s degree by research thesis. Her books include Where I’m Going with this Poem, a memoir in poetry and prose. Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat marks her return to feature writing as collections of narrative non-fiction stories.

Wendy's book list on why Portugal is weird

What is my book about?

Weird Foods of Portugal describes the author's first years trying to make sense of a strange new place and a home there for herself.

Witty, dreamlike, and at times jarring, the book sizzles with social commentary looking back at America and beautiful, finely drawn descriptions of Portugal and its people. Part dark-humor cautionary tale, part travel adventure, ultimately, Hermance's book of narrative non-fiction serves as affirmation for any who wish to make a similar move themselves.

Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

What is this book about?

"Wendy Lee Hermance describes Portugal´s colorful people and places - including taxi drivers and animals - with a poet´s empathy and dark humor. Part travel adventure, part cautionary tale, Weird Foods of Portugal is at it´s heart, affirmation for all who consider making such a move themselves."


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