Ben is a J.S.D. candidate at Columbia Law School and a Ph.D. (Economics) candidate at the Australian National University (hereinafter, “ANU”). His research interests are in the areas of contracts, equity (including trusts and parens patriae), law and economics, game theory, and behavioral economics.
Before coming to Columbia, Ben served as judicial clerk to Justice G.C. Lindsay of the Supreme Court of New South Wales while on leave from undergraduate studies (2012-13). He had also worked as a judicial clerk at the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory (2013-14), a sessional academic at the ANU (2014-16) and an advisor at the Australian Prime Minister’s department (2016). He was admitted as an Australian lawyer in 2014.
Ben completed the LL.M. at Columbia Law School (2015-16) and undergraduate degrees at the ANU (2008-13). He specialized in mathematical economics, civil procedure and commercial law.
Ben is a loyal member of the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History. He has published in legal history and helped organize legal history tutorials for members and friends of the Society.
Project Working Title: “Mental Incapacity in Anglo-American Commercial Law”
The doctrine in Anglo-American private law that governs the special rights of a mentally incapacitated person – such as the right to disaffirm her contracts and conveyances – is as old as common law itself. This doctrine continues to grow in importance and in controversy. The World Health Organization expects drastic increases in the proportion and number of older people in populations around the world. The number of people living with dementia is expected to triple its current estimate of 75 million by 2050. Almost one in five Americans experiences mental illness in a given year, and almost one in 25 experiences a serious mental illness. The prevalence of mental illness and increasing participation of older people in the modern economy suggest that the time is ripe for an economic analysis of a mentally incapacitated person’s special rights in the building blocks of private law – such as contracts, restitution, property and agency – that supply the rules and principles governing business activities (hereinafter, “commercial law”).
This dissertation offers a formal economic analysis of commercial law’s response to mental incapacity. It undertakes that analysis with rational-choice models and bounded-rationality models that have psychological foundations. A typical analysis of an area of commercial law takes three steps. The first step is a doctrinal and historical analysis of the relevant case law to reveal the particular psychological phenomenon that invokes commercial law’s special response. The second step connects that phenomenon to a modern theory in psychiatry or psychology and the corresponding decision-making model(s). If both rational-choice and bounded-rationality models appropriately capture the particular psychological phenomenon, then the principle of parsimony chooses the simpler model. The final step applies the chosen model to study the welfare implications of different rules and principles.
Updated Sptember 6, 2016