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Bryan Caplan on Law

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I agree – with an important caveat – with Bryan Caplan’s post on his refusal to respect “the law” simply because it’s the law [2].  My caveat – one pointed out by some commenters to Bryan’s post – is that law is not at all the same thing as legislation.  Law deserves far more respect (although, still, not respect given mindlessly) than does legislation; indeed, legislation, by its very nature, is frequently used to break the law.  For example, Jim Crow legislation in the late 19th-century American south broke the law that effectively enforced racial desegregation on streetcars [3].

One of the greatest dangers unleashed by modern language is the treatment of “legislation” and “law” as synonyms for each other – and, hence, the bestowal on legislation of the genuine respect that is due to law.

This theme, explained well in the first volume of Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty [4], is the subject of this talk that I gave last October to the GMU Economics Society and the Future of Freedom Foundation [5].

And here’s a short letter that I wrote a few years ago [6] on this topic.

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