Game Theory and the Law

Douglas G. Baird, Robert H. Gertner and Randal C. Picker


Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 330 pp. Paper $24.95.

From the Book Jacket

This book is the first to apply the tools of game theory and information economics to advance our understanding of how laws work. Organized around the major solution concepts of game theory, the book shows how such well-known games as the prisoner's dilemma, the battle of the sexes, beer-quiche, and the Rubinstein bargaining game can illuminate many different kinds of legal problems. The organization of Game Theory and the Law serves to highlight the basic mechanisms at work and to lay out a natural progression in the sophistication of the games and legal problems considered.

Game Theory and the Law will serve as an accessible primer on game theory for non-specialists. Many of the models and ideas it sets forth, however, are new. The authors offer new ways of thinking about problems in anti-discrimination, environmental, labor, and many other areas of law.

The book makes few formal demands. The basic concepts of modern game theory are introduced without requiring the reader to know calculus, probability theory, or any other formal mathematical tools beyond simple algebra, which is used sparingly. The book also contains a comprehensive glossary of legal and economic terms, ranging from the absolute priority rule, to the Nash equilibrium, to von Neumann-Morganstern expected utility theory. It offers those interested in law a new way of thinking about legal rules, and it shows those interested in game theory a fertile and largely unexplored domain in which its tools have many applications.

Douglas G. Baird is the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law, Robert H. Gertner is Professor of Business, and Randal C. Picker is the Paul and Theo Leffmann Professor of Commercial Law, all at The University of Chicago.

Back of the Book Jacket Blurbs

I enjoyed Game Theory and the Law immensely. It is pitched at exactly the right level of abstraction, and the examples are terrific. The book as a whole is really outstanding. Jon Elster, Columbia University

This book is a marvelous example of intellectual arbitrage: Baird, Gertner, and Picker make important contemporary research in game theory and information economics accessible to lawyers, law students, and legal academics; and the authors then creatively use this research to further our understanding of the way legal rules may affect how people behave. The wonder is that this book is a sophisticated, subtle, and intellectually rigorous guide while requiring none of the formal mathematical apparatus typically used in explorations of modern game theory. Robert H. Mnookin, Harvard Law School

Game Theory and the Law promises to be the definitive guide to the field. It provides a highly sophisticated yet exceptionally clear explanation of game theory, with a host of applications to legal issues.The authors have not only synthesized the existing scholarship, but also created the foundation for the next generation of research in law and economics. Daniel A. Farber, University of Minnesota Law School

Additional Information

There are seven items of interest:

  1. Jack Knight of the Political Science Department of at Washington University reviewed the book in The Law and Politics Book Review. We have created a reformatted version, but the original version is also available.
  2. Andrew P. Morriss, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Economics at Case Western Reserve University reviewed the book in the September, 1995 issue of the Journal of Legal Education. We have posted a copy of that review here.
  3. Table of Contents
  4. Preface and Introductory Chapter
  5. Index
  6. Bibliography
  7. My new research on game theory and the law focuses on computer simulations of spatial games. See Simple Games in a Complex World

The Index is in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. If you do not have the free reader for your computer, you should get it from Adobe.

Ordering Information

Game Theory and the Law is a Harvard University Press book. It can be ordered online at Amazon, among other places.

Contact Information

If you have comments or questions, please send email to Randy Picker at

Copyright 1995-2000, Randal C. Picker