Monday, January 12, 2009

Ratnapala on the Legacy of Eighteenth-Century "Evolutionary" Thought

Anura Surindra Ratnapala, T.C. Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland has posted Eighteenth Century Evolutionary Thought and its Relevance in the Age of Legislation, which appeared in volume 12 of Constitutional Political Economy (2001). Here is the abstract:
This essay revisits the evolutionist writings of the eighteenth century to clarify their key ideas concerning legal and social evolution and to assess their relevance in the present era of pervasive legislation. The discovery of the principle of the accumulation of design is traced to these writings and the continuity of twentieth century spontaneous order theory and new institutional economics with this tradition is noted. While highlighting the contributions of other institutional theorists to the elucidation of the role of purposive action in legal evolution the author argues that input designing does not alter the fundamental nature of legal emergence as postulated by the eighteenth century scholars. The essay supports the ideal of legal generality, free speech, property and contractual freedom as normative implications of the evolutionary viewpoint.
Image Credit: David Hume