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Eighteenth Century Evolutionary Thought and its Relevance in the Age of Legislation

Constitutional Political Economy, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 51-73, 2001

University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law Research Paper No. 09-03

44 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2009  

Suri Ratnapala

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

This essay revisits the evolutionist writings of the eighteenth century to clarify their key ideas concerning legal and social evolution and to assess their relevance in the present era of pervasive legislation. The discovery of the principle of the accumulation of design is traced to these writings and the continuity of twentieth century spontaneous order theory and new institutional economics with this tradition is noted. While highlighting the contributions of other institutional theorists to the elucidation of the role of purposive action in legal evolution the author argues that input designing does not alter the fundamental nature of legal emergence as postulated by the eighteenth century scholars. The essay supports the ideal of legal generality, free speech, property and contractual freedom as normative implications of the evolutionary viewpoint.

Keywords: Evolutionary jurisprudence, eighteenth century evolutionists, 'Darwinians before Darwin,' constitutional political economy, emergent complexity, roles of judge and legislator, common law

Suggested Citation

Ratnapala, Suri, Eighteenth Century Evolutionary Thought and its Relevance in the Age of Legislation (2001). Constitutional Political Economy, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 51-73, 2001; University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law Research Paper No. 09-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1325022

Suri Ratnapala (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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