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Quotation of the Day…

Posted By Don Boudreaux On December 27, 2011 @ 10:36 am In Complexity & Emergence,Cooperation,Law,Man of System,Myths and Fallacies,Video | Comments Disabled

… is from page 37 of the 2009 collection of some essays by the late Bruno Leoni, entitled Law, Liberty and the Competitive Market [1]; in particular, this quotation is from the penultimate paragraph of Leoni’s superb brief essay “‘Consumer Sovereignty’ and the Law”:

In reality, law is not something that is pre-fabricated in some specially designated place, by some specially designated producer using some pre-established technique.  In much the same way, followers of artificial languages such as Esperanto and Volapuk have not yet succeeded in finding a substitute for the language that we speak every day, a language that also is not prefabricated.  In the last analysis, the law is something that everyone makes every day with his behavior, his spontaneous acceptance and observance of the rules that everyone helps to establish, and finally – even if it seems paradoxical – with the very disagreements which may arise among individuals about the observance of these rules.

There are few common usages of terms in modern English that rankle me as much as – few common usages that come across to my ears as much like fingernails hard on a chalkboard – than the term “lawmaker” used as a synonym for “legislator.”  (The modern, common use of the term “liberal” is a close rival.)  I’m aware, btw, of the irony of my complaint: law – true law – can be suboptimal.

Legislators produce legislation, not law (although they do sometimes codify law).  And the confusion of legislation with law – a confusion fueled daily in common talk – is one of the most pernicious occurrences that bestows upon the state more authority and respect than it has earned and that it deserves.  This ‘man of system’ error reflects a widespread and profound failure of too many people – even many in the genuinely liberal camp – to reflect seriously upon the sources of order in society.  This matter was the subject of my October 2010 talk to GMU’s Economics Society [2].

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[1] Law, Liberty and the Competitive Market: http://www.amazon.com/Liberty-Competitive-Market-Bruno-Leoni/dp/1412808421

[2] my October 2010 talk to GMU’s Economics Society: http://www.fff.org/comment/com1010c.asp

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