The State and Freedom of Contract

Harry N. Scheiber
Stanford University Press, 1998 - 378 páginas
The relationship of law to economic freedom has been a vital element in the history of all modern democratic societies. "Freedom of contract" is both a technical term in law, referring to private agreements and promises, and a metaphor often deployed to describe economic liberty. This volume of new essays by eminent legal historians offers fresh perspectives on freedom of contract in both senses of the term, and considers how economic freedom relates to such classic political freedoms as free speech and other Anglo-American constitutional norms. The principal focus of the essays is on broad issues of policy and law, rather than on narrow considerations of legal doctrine.

All the contributors reject stereotypes that pervade the existing literature about the allegedly unalloyed individualism of the common law, and show how active state interventions of various kinds have shaped contract law in relation to social change throughout our legal history. Equally, however, they reject shibboleths regarding "bringing the state back in, " and take a hard look at the claims of statist ideology regarding the norms and rules that have established the legal boundaries of liberty in the modern industrial and post-industrial eras.

The topics covered are Blackstone's claim that property was the "despotic dominion of the private owner" (A. W. B. Simpson), labor and contract (John V. Orth), the influence of philosophical trends on legal innovations (James Gordley), contract and individualism (David Lieberman), the tradition of public rights (Harry N. Scheiber), the formal concept of "liberty of contract" in American law (Charles McCurdy), the interwoven history of labor law and contract law (ArthurMcEvoy), public policy in relation to natural resources (Donald Pisani), and globalization of freedom of contract (Martin Shapiro).

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