This Article explores the divergence in law and convergence in economics in dealing with harms and benefits. While tort law usually makes the injurer internalize wrongful harms through damages, restitution law does not enable the benefactor to internalize the benefits she confers on others without their request. In both harm and benefit cases, however, internalization seems to make economic sense for the same reason: injurers and benefactors alike will behave efficiently if they internalize the externalities that they create. The Article’s main goal is to develop eight liability rules for harm and benefit cases and to point out the symmetry between the rules relating to harms and the rules relating to benefits. It also provides an explanation for the legal divergence between tort law and restitution law and makes the claim that the gap between these two fields should be narrowed. Finally, the Article relates these eight rules to the main relevant categories of harm and benefit cases in positive law and appraises their advantages and disadvantages.

In this Article, we study rules that solve the conflict between the original owner and an innocent buyer of a stolen or embezzled good. These rules balance the protection of the original owner’s property and the buyer’s reliance on contractual exchange, thereby addressing a fundamental legal and economic trade-off. Our analysis is based on a unique, hand-collected dataset on the rules in force in 126 countries. Using this data, we document and explain two conflicting trends. There is a large amount of first-order divergence: both rules that apply to stolen goods and those that apply to embezzled goods vary widely across countries. Yet, there is also remarkable second-order convergence: virtually all legal systems protect the innocent buyer more strongly if the good was embezzled (rather than stolen) and if she purchased it in an open market, at an auction, or from a professional seller (as opposed to a private sale). We show that, while divergence is attributable to varying cultural values, convergence can be rationalized using a classic functional approach: these rules harmonize the owner’s incentives to protect property and the buyer’s incentives to inquire about title.

This Article utilizes a unique data set of property laws in 119 jurisdictions in the world to test convergence/divergence theories in comparative property law. Our theory predicts that first, because legal systems face similar positive transaction costs in delineating property rights, the structure of property law among all jurisdictions in the world will converge or remain similar since some time in the distant past. Second, our theory posits that the style of property law will tend to converge when the doctrines in question are isolated, but diverge when they are interconnected. Our data and descriptive analysis support the theory. Doctrines regarding possession, sales, condominiums, tenancies in common, and limited property rights serve as prominent examples.

Judges decide cases. Do they also try to influence which cases they decide? Plaintiffs “shop” for the most attractive forum, but do judges try to attract cases by “selling” their courts? Some American judges actively try to enlarge their influence by making their courts attractive to plaintiffs, a phenomenon known as “forum selling.” This Article shows that forum selling occurs outside the United States as well, focusing on Germany, a country that is often held up as the paragon of the civil law approach to adjudication. As in the United States, German courts attract cases primarily through the pro-plaintiff manipulation of procedure, including the routine issuance of ex parte injunctions in press cases and refusal to stay patent infringement proceedings when the patent’s validity is challenged in another forum. A critical difference between forum selling in Germany and the United States is that court administrators are more actively involved in Germany. As state officials, German court administrators have the incentive to consider the effect of caseloads on government revenue and the local economy, and they use their power to allocate judges to particular kinds of cases in order to make their courts attractive. They also use their power over promotion, case allocation, and resources to reward judges who succeed in attracting cases. Based on an extensive set of interviews with attorneys, judges, and court officials, this Article describes evidence of forum selling in German patent, press, and antitrust law. It also analyzes how German courts compete internationally with courts of other countries.