Robin Hanson writes,

law is there to make disputants shut up…

If we expected jurors (or judges) to try their best to achieve social justice or economic efficiency, without substantial bias, we would have law, but not laws. That is, there would lots of law, i.e., activity in a system for settling disputes, but few laws, i.e., rules about how to settle disputes. The legal system would be simple: you bring your complaint to a jury, you and your opponent each tell your side, and then the jury makes any decision they think appropriate. Think King Solomon.

Hanson views the courtroom as a theater, and I think that view has a lot of merit. Meanwhile, at econtalk, Russ Roberts and Don Boudreaux discuss Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty. One point is that you can have law without legislation. The example they give is you go to a crowded cafeteria and put your book bag on a seat in order to claim it. You then get your food, and the expectation is that your book bag will still be there and you will be able to sit. No legislation is involved. On the other hand, if you were driving 5 MPH over the speed limit on the Beltway, you would be shocked to be pulled over and given a ticket. Everyone else is going 15 MPH over the speed limit, and it’s obvious that the real law is not the same as the legislated speed limit.

There is a lot more to the discussion. Ordinarily, I prefer text to audio, but this one works well and I recommend it.

By the way, Overcoming Bias, where Hanson’s piece is posted, is the best group academic blog out there, in my opinion. My guess is that there are a number of truly brilliant blogs that are just off the economist’s radar screen. Another one that comes to mind is fightaging. And some of the blogs at Corante are fantastic–look for Zack Lynch at “Brainwaves,” Derek Lowe at “Pipeline,” or Clay Shirky at “Many to Many.”

I’ve noticed that one of the characteristics that is common to a lot of blogs I like is that they have a “thinking out loud” feel to them. The Boudreaux podcast has that quality, also.