Richard A. Epstein
It is often considered that too many laws is one of the necessary consequences of a complex society. Many insist that any call for legal simplification smacks of nostalgia and sentimentality. Richard Epstein believes, however, that the conventional view has it backward. The richer texture of American modern society allows for more individual freedom and choice, permitting the organization of a comprehensive legal order capable of meeting the technological and social challenges of today on the basis of just six core principles. The first four rules, which regulate human interactions in ordinary social life, concern the autonomy of the individual, property, contract and tort. Taken together these rules establish and protect consistent entitlements over all resources, both human and natural. These rules are backstopped by two more rules that permit forced exchanges on payment of just compensation when private or public necessity so dictates. Epstein then uses these six building blocks to clarify several intractable problems in the modern legal landscape.
His discussion of employment contracts explains the hidden virtues of contracts at will and exposes the weaknesses of laws regarding collective bargaining, unjust dismissal, employer discrimination and comparable worth. Epstein's analysis shows how laws governing liability for products and professional services, corporate transactions and environmental protection have generated unnecessary social strife and economic dislocation by violating these basic principles. This text offers an agenda for social reform that undoes many of the problems of the modern regulatory state. At a time when most Americans have come to distrust and fear government at all levels, Epstein shows how a consistent application of economic and political theory allows us to steer a middle path between too much and too little.