Justice and the Evolution of the Common Law
Richard O. Zerbe Jr.
University of Washington - Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs; University of Washington - School of Law
Empirical evidence shows, and theory suggests, that the common law tends toward economic efficiency. While various theories attempt to explain this phenomenon, no single one is well accepted. This article provides a simple explanation. It suggests that efficiency arises as a matter of justice. Justice is sought because justice-seeking is a social norm with its own sanctioning force. Justice is sought and efficiency achieved because they substantially overlap. Limitations in the traditional definition of efficiency, however, ensure that efficiency is not congruent with justice. This paper suggests that it can be: the congruence of justice and efficiency will be greater if the definition of efficiency is expanded to include moral sentiments.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: justice, efficiency, common law, evolution, moral, Kaldor Hicks, benefit, cost
JEL Classification: D60, K00, N00
Date posted: November 22, 2005