Janice Nadler

Northwestern University

Classically, the ambition of legal regulation is to change behaviors. Laws might aim to increase or decrease various activities, such as owning a gun, or taking a work leave to care for a sick family member, or polluting, or hiring a minority job candidate. They might aim to get people or institutions to substitute one activity for another, such as buying diet soda instead of sugared, or using chewing tobacco instead of smoking, or using solar energy instead of conventional sources. Legal regulation can accomplish its goals directly, through fear of sanctions or desire for rewards. But it can also do so indirectly, by changing attitudes about the regulated behaviors. Ironically, this indirect path can be the most efficient one, particularly if the regulation changes attitudes about the underlying morality of the behaviors. This is because if laws change moral attitudes, we reduce—maybe drastically—the need for the state to act on or even monitor regulated players