Christoph Engel held second Franz Böhm lecture at Walter Eucken Institute

February 25, 2019

The Franz Böhm Lecture was initiated in 2017. These lectures are held by personalities who render outstanding services to the field of competition law.

Franz Böhm Is Dead. Long Live Franz Böhm! Possibilities of Integrating Economics and Legal Studies in a Changed Environment

The Freiburg School of the 1930s and 40s was particularly marked by cooperation between legal scholars and economists. For the founders of the Freiburg School, the jurist Franz Böhm and the economist Walter Eucken, it was perfectly natural that these two areas should work together in order to explain the influence of institutional conditions on economic life. This is where Christoph Engel’s lecture begins. Engel describes the initial years of the Freiburg School as a Golden Age of cooperation between economic and legal academics, a period that was followed by a gradual alienation of one field from the other.

Engel sees the reason for this estrangement as lying in the development of economic studies. While the field of legal studies has barely changed since Böhm’s time, economic studies have become far more international nowadays than they used to be; and secondly, they are characterized by a demand for strict scientific objectivity. According to Engel, this leads to economists publishing their research results mainly in specialist journals, rather than proactively deliberating questions of economic policy.

Finally, Engel wonders whether a renewed convergence of the two disciplines might be possible. He mentions two potential areas, namely institutional economics and machine learning. Against the backdrop of the changes in economic studies and the associated incentive structure for young scientists, Engel sees the second area as particularly promising. Machine learning offers the opportunity of opening up legal data with methods from empirical economics, thus creating synergies between the disciplines, as well as meeting the requirements of economic journals.

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