Where Does Law Come From?

by Don Boudreaux on May 20, 2008

in Complexity & Emergence, Law

I’ve always liked this 1997 essay — “Where Does Law Come From?” — by Bruce Benson.  In it, Bruce explains why law is not synonymous with legislation.  Here’s his concluding paragraph:

The lesson here is that law and governance are natural institutions that arise out of people’s interest in prospering through production, the division of labor, and trade. They do not depend on a central coercive authority for their genesis. States can arise when a powerful group, bent on institutionalized extortion, co-opt and alter existing customary law to serve its own particular interests.

A fuller treatment of this vitally important subject is in Bruce’s 1990 book The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State.


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