Precrime Never Pays! 'Law and Economics' in Minority Report
This paper examines the notion of "precrime" as articulated in the most recent Philip K. Dick film treatment (and Tom Cruise vehicle) Minority Report. I will situate precrime within a jurisprudential tradition concerned with prediction. The jurisprudence I look to, however, is not so much Holmes' celebrated 19th century realism (with its focus on "the predictive theory of the law") as its contemporary equivalent, Law and Economics. I will argue that Minority Report literalises the fantasy that lies at the heart of Law and Economics. That is, of a world in which reason, rational choice and consumption prevail (no wonder so many scenes are set at shopping malls or factories) because irrationality-coded as the crime passionel of murder-has been pre-empted, ante facto, by a law that does away with the need for law. Except, of course, the law in the form of the most oppressive kind of policing, institutionalised in the Department of PreCrime. Minority Report, however, not only literalises Law and Economics' fantasy of a world without law, but traverses it as well. For the film exposes the politics that lies behind PreCrime--and, by implication, Law and Economics-- by "outing" the transgression that lies at the heart of its law. Namely, in the murder of one of PreCogs' mother by the department head himself, a crime which turns out to be the founding act of PreCrime's governmentality. This paper will conclude by speculating on the meaning of "happy ending" of Minority Report-the PreCogs sequestered in a Thoreuvian hideaway, Cruise and his screen wife expecting a baby to replace their lost one-asking whether and to what extent it may rebuke or endorse Law and Economics' exchange values, especially in light of the famous debate on the "economics of the baby shortage" between Richard Posner and Patricia Williams.
Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies
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