Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 12, 2017

in History, Law

… is from page 19 of Daniel Boorstin’s magnificent 1973 volume, The Americans: The Democratic Experience:

Without benefit of law, ranchers had divided the range among themselves by a system that was informal, that had no standing in court, but was enforced by the cattlemen themselves.

DBx: Boorstin here, discussing post-U.S. Civil War western cattle raising, identifies one of the now-more-famous examples of spontaneous law-making.  My only gripe is with the quotation’s fourth word.  That word should instead be “legislation,” for the rules that the ranchers developed among themselves, without the direction or even the help of the state, are indeed law.  I will insist until my dying day that one of the greatest errors about the nature of society – namely, the fallacy that law is that which the state commands and forbids – is fostered by the mistaken use of “legislation” as synonym for “law.”


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