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Essays on Law and Economics


Miller, Alan Daniel (2009) Essays on Law and Economics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/KGDJ-M252.


This thesis studies three legal problems through the lens of economic theory.

In the first chapter, I study a model of group identification in which individuals' opinions as to the membership of a group are aggregated to form a list of group members. Potential aggregation rules are studied through the axiomatic approach. I introduce two axioms, meet separability and join separability , each of which requires the list of members generated by the aggregation rule to be independent of whether the question of membership in a group is separated into questions of membership in two other groups. I use these axioms to characterize a class of one-vote rules, in which one opinion determines whether an individual is considered to be a member of a group. I then show that the only anonymous one-vote rule is self-identification , in which each individual determines for himself whether he is a member of the group.

The second chapter introduces a path-based measure of convexity to be used in assessing the compactness of legislative districts. Our measure is the probability that a district will contain the shortest path between a randomly selected pair of its points. The measure is defined relative to exogenous political boundaries and population distributions.

In the third chapter, I introduce a new model of community standards relevant to the judicial determination of obscenity. In the model, standards are defined as subjective judgments restricted only by a simple reasonableness condition. A set of individual standards is then methodically aggregated to form the community standard. I define several axioms which reflect legal concerns expressed by the judiciary. The axioms require that the community standard (a) preserve unanimous agreements about the entire standard, (b) become more permissive when all individuals become more permissive, and not discriminate, ex ante, (c) between individuals and (d) between works. I then show that the only method which satisfies these properties is unanimity rule , in which a work is considered obscene if and only if all members of the community consider it to be obscene. I also consider several variants of the model and provide characterizations in these related models.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Axioms; Community Standards; Compactness; Convexity; Gerrymandering; Group Identification; Law and Economics; Liberalism; Obscenity; Self-Identification; Separability; Social Choice
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • McAfee, R. Preston
Thesis Committee:
  • McAfee, R. Preston (chair)
  • Chambers, Christopher
  • Spitzer, Matthew
  • Zame, William R.
  • Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent
Defense Date:6 April 2009
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05292009-171353
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2283
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:18 Jun 2009
Last Modified:26 Nov 2019 20:15

Thesis Files

PDF (Miller_Dissertation.pdf) - Final Version
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