Skip to main content Accessibility help
The Law of Good People
  • Cited by 46
  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Buy the print book

Book description

Currently, the dominant enforcement paradigm is based on the idea that states deal with 'bad people' - or those pursuing their own self-interests - with laws that exact a price for misbehavior through sanctions and punishment. At the same time, by contrast, behavioral ethics posits that 'good people' are guided by cognitive processes and biases that enable them to bend the laws within the confines of their conscience. In this illuminating book, Yuval Feldman analyzes these paradigms and provides a broad theoretical and empirical comparison of traditional and non-traditional enforcement mechanisms to advance our understanding of how states can better deal with misdeeds committed by normative citizens blinded by cognitive biases regarding their own ethicality. By bridging the gap between new findings of behavioral ethics and traditional methods used to modify behavior, Feldman proposes a 'law of good people' that should be read by scholars and policymakers around the world.


‘A fascinating, comprehensive exploration of the complexities of human motivations – and of how to get good people to do really good things. Opens up new vistas in behavioral science, and also in public policy. Highly recommended.'

Cass R. Sunstein - Harvard University, Massachusetts

‘More than 40 years ago, economics revolutionized legal theory by analyzing the incentive effects of laws on people who are rationally self-interested. In recent years, cognitive psychology revolutionized law and economics by showing how legal incentives affect real people who are psychological, not purely rational. In The Law of Good People, Yuval Feldman provides a fresh perspective on laws aimed at motivating good people, as opposed to just deterring bad people. His creativity and knowledge of law, economics, and psychology will make readers rethink the incentive effects of laws and current theories of law and economics.'

Robert Cooter - University of California, Berkeley School of Law

‘In the mid-twentieth century, Hannah Arendt was criticized for speaking about the banality of evil in describing Adolf Eichmann, and even today Stanley Milgram's experiments showing the ease of ordering people to harm others is difficult to comprehend. Since then, psychological evidence has accumulated, revealing the undeniable daily harms that emerge from the unintended actions of ‘good' people. In this excellent book, Yuval Feldman brings all the best research to those interested in imagining the good society. He admirably polishes the grimy results of behavioral science experiments until they shine with solutions for political and legal reform. It is rare to see a scholar write with the broad sweep Feldman does, and even rarer to have one so effectively persuade that central concepts in the law - property, conflict of interest, discrimination - cannot remain in their present form if only we would confront the evidence already before us.'

Mahzarin R. Banaji - Harvard University, Massachusetts

‘Should the law target the infamous Mr Hyde? No, says Yuval Feldman, who demonstrates why most individuals are not hard-nosed Mr Hydes. In fact, the law should be much more concerned with Dr Jekyll, who could turn into Mr Hyde at all times, but who will nevertheless convince himself that he remains the good-natured Dr Jekyll. In short, motivational plasticity, as Feldman explains, is a much bigger normative problem than merely being a ‘bad person' in the first place. This book not only alerts legal academia to this idea, but also carefully discusses the implications for legal analysis and design.'

Christoph Engel - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

‘This book is the first to introduce the large and heterogeneous body of work on behavioral ethics to the world of law and legal policy. Drawing in part on the author's own pioneering experimental work, the book moves beyond the reigning enforcement-based approach with its focus on cognition and deliberation, and takes greater account of complex motivations, especially of people with a self-conception as being a good person. Feldman provides an important first installment on evaluating law and related interventions in the light of this promising new paradigm.'

Henry Smith - Harvard Law School, Massachusetts

‘Weaving in disparate threads of economics and psychology, Professor Feldman delivers an exciting new approach to our understanding of ethical behavior. The implications of this work will influence our understanding of how to regulate good and evil for many years to come.'

Jeffrey Rachlinski - Cornell Law School, New York

'By bridging the gap between new findings of behavioral ethics and traditional methods used to modify behavior, Professor Feldman proposes a 'law of good people' that should be read by scholars and policymakers around the world. A work of simply brilliant scholarship, The Law of Good People is a fully engaging, thought-provoking, informed and informative study that is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Political Science, Judicial, and Contemporary Sociology collections and supplemental studies lists.'

Source: Library Bookwatch

'In The Law of Good People: Challenging States’ Ability to Regulate Human Behavior, Feldman’s goal is to 'create a new branch of scholarship that focuses on the rule of law in a world populated by individuals with different levels of awareness of their own unethicality'. … The Law of Good People is a foundational work and as such it is a springboard rather than an ending. Feldman points to a host of thought-provoking questions in need of further research and deliberations, such as, 'How blind is a blind spot from a legal perspective of responsibility?' and 'Can we know ex ante in what mode of reasoning people will be when making a decision about the law?'. Many young scholars, and quite a few older ones, will find this book highly stimulating, inviting new thinking, and new lines of research as well as legal policy.’

Amitay Ezioni Source: Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies

'Feldman is rightly worried about the methodological limitations of behavioural ethics, and he is also right that there is nowhere near enough work to be confident about the underlying mechanisms behind these problems and the solutions to them. Many studies are small and experimental. Quirkiness is fun, but magic circle firms are not about to start building difficult-decisions suites stuffed with cuddly toys. Yet in these limitations is the central challenge: can ecologically realistic, methodologically robust, replicated studies develop our understanding of behavioural ethics further? Feldman and his collaborator’s own studies are a rich resource here. Can regulators, or even lawyers and compliance managers, be encouraged to experiment with behavioural interventions? After all, lawyers need to be interested in both how rules work and how people behave ethically if they are to do their job effectively. Feldman’s book shows us how important this could be.'

Richard Moorhead Source: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots)

'… Yuval Feldman [has] convincingly developed an illustrative access to the topic of regulation which can [be] characterized as pioneering since it breaks up [ingrained] concepts but offers new insights based on behavioral aspects in an intelligible manner. Thus, the book 'The Law of Good People' offers a solid foundation to [recalibrate] the concepts of regulation which makes it indispensable for any well-selected library.'

Armin Kammel Source: translated from Österreichisches BankArchiv

‘The Law of Good People provides a comprehensive summary of an important body of research on Behavioral Ethics … will serve as a useful resource for legal scholars, lawyers, policymakers, and social scientists interested in law and legal institutions.’

Janice Nadler Source: Michigan Law Review

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Save to Kindle
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Save to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.