Understanding the Common Law

Prof. Richard Epstein presents the logical reasoning of Common Law in a concise manner.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npDHIMq1AEg


When you look at the four major branches of Common Law: Property, contract, tort and restitution, they fit together to form a much more coherent whole.

– at 1m10s

I don't think anybody says that, as a matter of course, everybody's entitled to strike everybody in any way they see fit. If one person can do it, everybody can do it.

– at 1m52s

The moment you have the unlimited use of force, you get a complete disintegration and destruction of the social order. You cannot be morally relativist about the question of whether or not civilisation should or should not survive.

– at 2m1s

These are the basic principles you have: 1. The first person to acquire an unknown object is its owner. 2. If you make a promise you want to keep it. 3. If you engage in aggression you are engaged in wrongful conduct.

– at 2m53s

The simple-rule system that I'm talking about is a bottoms-up system in which individuals essentially, by individual and cooperative action, try to devote resources to their highest-value use.

– at 7m01s

The alternative system is a top-down system in which government tries to figure out who is going to get what particular assets and how they're to be used.

– at 7m12s

Top-down systems [...] rarely work and the reason is that the people who are in charge of them do not have sufficient knowledge of either the tastes or the abilities of the various individuals who are involved in the situation.

– at 7m20s

The theory about decentralized behavior is that you bring to bear the knowledge of the people who care most about an interest and those people are the ones who form the contracts [...] and the tort law keeps outsiders from [...] messing the whole thing up.

– at 7s51s

There's no way any government agency can tell you what the price ought to be for any particular goods or services that are sold by one party to another.

– at 9m27s

What a market does that a government cannot do is to set a price for sale or a price for labor which leaves both parties better off than they were before.

– at 9m35s

Minimum wage laws [...] basically limit the kinds of arrangements that you could make with individuals on a wage-type contract. And if you set that wage too high, [...] people will essentially abandon that kind of arrangement and move to something else.

– at 14m29s

And if they have to move to something else, it's gonna be less efficient than the relationship that they had.

– at 14m44s

What one means by Natural Law is that there is certain kinds of features of the world which are so common and so powerful that any legal system that tries to put things together in ignorance of those things will always fail.

– at 16m38s

When people say that law starts with the State, they forget that the State is a relatively late development in human history.

– at 22m55s