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Hayek and the common law, reconsidered

Due largely to the influence of the late Friedrich Hayek, a couple of generations' worth of libertarians and classical liberals have venerated the historic English common law as the most admirable of governmental institutions: evolved with glacial slowness from customary rules, free from influence by kings and legislators, infinitely flexible and sensitive to the facts of cases, a restraint on centralized state power, and so forth and so on. But, argues Ronald Hamowy in Cato Journal, this portrait is at best over-idealized: "Not only is Hayek�s account defective in that it does not reflect the severe limitations of the early common law, but his conclusions regarding the origin of its rules are questionable." A useful corrective to the "common law good, other forms of law bad" mode of pop-Hayekian argumentation (table of contents/article in PDF form).

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.