September 29, 2014

Bruno Leoni's Legacy and Continued Relevance

  • Todd Zywicki

    George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
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In his famous book, Freedom and the Law, originally published in 1961, Italian lawyer-economist Bruno Leoni posed the question of whether over the long run a society and legal system premised primarily on legislative law-making could sustain a system of individual liberty, or whether such a system required a common law-style foundation to support it. In this article I evaluate Leoni’s challenge and find that his predictions about the nature of a legislative-centered legal system not only are more relevant than ever, but that recent tendencies toward extreme and arbitrary law-making by executive edict are consistent with the trends and intellectual principles that Leoni identified over 50 years ago. By identifying the underlying jurisprudential theories that generated the current state of affairs, Leoni’s warnings are even more relevant today than ever before.