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Justice and the Evolution of the Common Law

51 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2005  

Richard O. Zerbe Jr.

University of Washington - Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs; University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: November 2005

Abstract

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.

Keywords: justice, efficiency, common law, evolution, moral, Kaldor Hicks, benefit, cost

JEL Classification: D60, K00, N00

Suggested Citation

Zerbe, Richard O., Justice and the Evolution of the Common Law (November 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=853244 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.853244

Richard O. Zerbe Jr. (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs ( email )

Box 353055
Seattle, WA 98125
United States
206-616-5470 (Phone)

University of Washington - School of Law

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

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