Law 101

Latest (3rd of 4) of Niall Ferguson’s Reith Lectures The Rule of Law and its Enemies – The Landscape of the Law, first broadcast last week, continues the agenda that simple law is best for global economic progress.

The point of law is fundamentally property and contracts rights – wide-acceptance, cost-effective execution and reliable-enforcement – thereby minimising overhead cost and risk of doing business beyond your immediate social neighbourhood. Interesting that laws of precedent must (do) rest on common law of what is good, and what is law good for (and that common law is based on social interaction between neighbours, extended by communication to wider society – one source of hypocrisy – imperfect empathy as well as imperfect knowledge). The point of precedent being to ensure that evolutionary changes in law, as society and environment change, are always coherent – consistent within a shared narrative – proceeding step-wise from precedent, anchored but not fixed by precedent. Another of these clear “progressive evolution requires institutional conservatism” messages.

Beyond Law-101 above, the point is primarily one of balance between private and public institutions for setting and enforcing laws of business, without either becoming an over-powerful dead hand – monopolistic on one hand, bureaucratic on the other. The bureaucracy of complex legislation leads to the rule of lawyers (as in the US), rather than law. Ultimately we depend on the true independence of judiciary, rather than judiciary (and executive politics) as extensions of the legal profession.

Let’s hope there is more than Law 101 in the 4th and final extended lecture tomorrow.

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