The legal origin movement is implicitly functionalist, while it explicitly prioritizes economic dimensions of development. From this perspective, the empirical findings presented in this paper seem to uncover the existence of a paradox. On the one hand, common law countries are apparently characterized by countless advantages, yet they do not grow faster than civil law countries. On the other hand, common law countries present a more unequal distribution of income, thus suggesting that also from a static perspective there is no a priori reason to prefer a common law system. To further investigate this paradox, we analyze if common law countries are at least characterized by a better kind (earned) of inequalities. However, as the economic distinction between inequalities of opportunities and inequalities of effort is too fragile, this proved to be an impossible task. We are therefore left with the unsolved riddle of the contradicting results obtained by the legal origins literature. From a more practical perspective, the empirical findings seem to disprove the dogma that common law countries are under every condition the perfect benchmark for reforms in developing countries.

developing countries, Income inequality, inequality of opportunity, inequality of outcome, legal origins,
Law and Development Review
Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics

Maggio, G, Romano, A, & Troisi, A. (2014). The legal origin of income inequality. Law and Development Review, 7(1), 1–21. doi:10.1515/ldr-2014-0003