In Search of a General Approach to Legal Analysis: A Comparative Institutional Alternative

This Article is an attempt to aid in the construction of such a general approach to legal analysis. Its central thesis is that all legal decisions share a fundamental feature that should be a basic building block for any general analytic approach: they all involve a choice among imperfect alternative decision-making institutions. In all cases, legal decision makers must consider the relative merits or attributes of the alternative institutions. The analyst of legal decisions, therefore, should adopt a “comparative institutional” approach, which can be simply stated as follows: the determinants of legal decisions can best be analyzed when legal decision makers are viewed as though they were concerned with choosing the best, or least imperfect, institution to implement a given societal goal.