Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Legal Systems Very Different From Ours

I have just webbed the latest draft of the book I have been writing. To give you a quick idea of what's there, here is the table of contents:


1.      Imperial Chinese Law
2.      Romani Law
3.      The Amish
4.      Jewish Law
5.      Islamic Law
6.      When God is the Legislator.
7.      Pirate Law
8.      Prisoners’ Law
9.      Student Law [Not yet in]
10.    Embedded and Polylegal Systems
11.    Saga-Period Iceland
12.    Somali Law
13.    Early Irish Law
14.    Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne: The Plains Indians
15.    Feud Law
16.    England in the Eighteenth Century
17.    Athenian Law: The Work of a Mad Economist
18.    Enforcing Rules
19.    The Problem of Error
20.    Making Law
21.    Guarding the Guardians
22.    Ideas We Can Use


Comments welcome.


Cathy Raymond said...

David: Is there a particular reason why you chose that particular order of chapters?

David Friedman said...

The book consists of system chapters and thread chapters--the latter on some issue running through multiple systems. I tried to organize it so that the relevant system chapters preceded the thread chapter, and so that if one chapter referred to material in another, the latter came first.

How would you organize it?

Cathy Raymond said...

I can't really say because I don't know enough about most of the legal systems you're planning to discuss to be able to say which of them resemble which others. I would probably try to group similar systems with each other, assuming there are enough similarities to make that possible.

I greatly like the idea of concluding with a chapter on lessons that these different legal systems have for us--I already want to read that chapter!

Unknown said...

Will this be releaed in hard copy? I'd rather pay for paper than read on a screen for free.

Tom Crispin said...

Would you consider posting the chapters as .pdf files rather than .docx?

Some of us are, shall we say, a little phobic about MS Windows file formats regarding malware.

brekinapez said...


PDFs are no safer than any other file type. In fact, the first malware affecting them showed up back around 2010.

And not to trigger your phobia, but you don't even have to click a link anymore to download a virus; all you have to do is hover your pointer over the wrong link for just a few seconds.

LH said...

I've only skimmed your section on polylegal/embedded systems in Muslim countries, so I might have missed more details elsewhere, but I wonder if it might be useful to discuss the restrictions of Muslims vs. non-Muslims in their access to those systems at a bit greater length, along with the implications.

For example, you noted that a dispute between users of the Muslim and Jewish/Christian courts could settle the dispute in a Muslim court. That is true (and was typically "required"), but it's also true that Muslims generally were required to use the Islamic courts while Jews/Christians had more leeway and could choose among the different options. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Timur Kuran's work on the economic history of the Middle East, but legal pluralism and the greater flexibility it provided non-Muslims is one of the major institutional factors that he argues led to the relative economic decline of Muslims when compared to non-Muslims (after a period of Muslim economic dominance).

On the other hand, that might be getting a little off topic.

After a quick look at your prisoners chapter, it seems you mean specifically prisons/jails for civilians, but what about inmates of prisoner-of-war camps? I can recall reading about various market institutions developing in camps (as they do in prisons generally) and I wonder if "legal institutions" emerge similarly.

Anonymous said...

And what about Lex mercatoria?

Power Child said...

I've developed a minor pastime: to see how much writing someone can do about the Amish before citing Donald Kraybill. I can't tell whether there's just not that much interest in the Amish among scholars, or whether Kraybill is simply that immensely, incomparably dominant in his area of study.

Unknown said...

If it helps, Boris Kozolchyk wrote a hornbook called Comparative Commercial Contracts: Law, Culture and Economic Development.

I'm writing a paper on comparative law too. I understand how challenging it must have been to find all the material beyond canon and roman law. For some reason that's all law professors want compare in LLM programs. Great work, I look forward to seeing this published.

TheVidra said...

A really interesting write-up (relevant to the subject of different legal systems coexisting in one society) can be found here: http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm
Is anyone else familiar with this? I found it a fascinating read, but I don't know much about the author (and other articles I've found by him are much weaker).

MSU Law Poland Program said...

What luck! I reference your previous drafts a lot in my Comparative Contract Theory seminar -- this is an outstanding book. Looking forward to reading this latest draft.

Daniel said...

I generally see the Acts of Union referred to as the Laws in Wales Acts in academic literature, though the former is apparently an established alternate name. Was there a particular reason to use the (now?) less common name in chapter X?

Daniel said...

"Padgett Syndrome" in chapter XI is typically referred to as 'Paget's disease (of bone).'

Matthew Muñoz said...

There's a lot of overlap between the Jewish Law and When God is the Legislator chapters. In particular, explanations of Maimonides and stoning, ways around 7th-year debt cancellation, communal leaders as inheritors of kingly power of legislation and using Sanhedrin as majority decision mechanism are repeated.

You ask whether the Wages and Wergelds section should be cut. I think the bit about thrall prices, weregeld, and manumission cost being equal is very interesting. I wonder if there's an opportunity to pay the thrall manumission cost plus a nominal fee to free himself and become my thrall if the owner won't sell.

Unknown said...

I downloaded each chapter to my Kindle Fire. Currently reading the section Jewish law, and multiple (very interesting) footnotes are apparently cut off. Anybody else experience this/ have a fix????

David Friedman said...

Daniel: I probably used that name because it was the name used in my source.

David Friedman said...

Daniel: Thanks for the correction on Padget's disease. I'll fix it.

Mike Huben said...

"The city state of Athens in the fourth and fifth centuries,"

Shouldn't you specify BCE? Otherwise there is an ambiguity of 800+ years...

Emile Phaneuf said...

Prof. Friedman,

I am probably the millionth person to ask, but I have not yet found the answer to my question elsewhere. When can we expect publication of this book in print and/or Kindle? I very much look forward to it.

Thank you.

David Friedman said...


I'm currently talking with possible publishers, so don't have a date for publication yet, but the current draft is up on the web for free.