The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law / Edition 1

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In this book, legal scholar Randy Barnett elaborates and defends the fundamental premise of the Declaration of Independence: that all persons have a natural right to pursue happiness so long as they respect the equal rights of others, and that governments are only justly established to secure these rights.

Drawing upon insights from philosophy, economics, political theory, and law, Barnett explains why, when people pursue happiness while living in society with each other, they confront the pervasive social problems of knowledge, interest and power. These problems are best dealt with by ensuring the liberty of the people to pursue their own ends, but this liberty is distinguished from "license" by certain fundamental rights and procedures associated with the classical liberal conception of "justice" and "the rule of law." He then outlines the constitutional framework that is needed to put these principles into practice.

In a new Afterword to this second edition, Barnett elaborates on this thesis by responding to several important criticisms of the original work. He then explains how this "libertarian" approach is more modest than either the "social justice" theories of the left or the "legal moralism" of the right.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" ambitious is written with an unusual clarity of expression...the argument is carefully articulated so as to lay bare the bones of the ideas and expose them to careful scrutiny. Barnett has written a readable book that nonetheless will repay careful study....a rich and provocative set of arguments."—Michigan Law Review

"The Structure of Liberty is a very well written book of political and legal philosophy, drawing on Barnett's considerable analytical and rhetorical skills. It is an instant classic."—James Lindgren, Northwestern University School of Law

"The Structure of Liberty is that rare creature, a book that delivers on most of the promises it makes. Already the book is on its way to becoming a contemporary classic, the successor in interest to Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia as a source of ideas and arguments for the revitalization of an important intellectual tradition that has long stood at the periphery of legal and political theory."—Michigan Law Review

"His interest in basic theory as it relates to the uses and abuses of political power makes his views on a wide range of state policy issues, from taxation to criminal law, worthy of careful attention."—Reason

"This is a serious, engaging, and important work of jurisprudence and political philosophy....Comprehensive in its treatment, fair-minded in the way it deals with evidence and unfailingly rigorous in its argument."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198297291
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2000
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Randy E. Barnett is Austin B. Fletcher Professor at the Boston University School of Law, and the author of numerous books on legal theory.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Liberty vs. License
2. Using Resources: The First-Order Problem of Knowledge
3. Two Methods of Social Ordering
4. The Liberal Conception of Justice
5. Communicating Justice: The Second-Order Problem of Knowledge
6. Specifying Conventions: The Third-Order Problem of Knowledge
7. The Partiality Problem
8. The Incentive Problem
9. The Compliance Problem
10. The Problem of Enforcement Error
11. Fighting Crime Without Punishment
12. The Problem of Enforcement Abuse
13. Polycentric Constitutional Constraints on Power
14. Imagining a Polycentric Constitutional Order: A Short Fable
15. Beyond Justice and the Rule of Law?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2001

    Great Even For a Novice to Read

    Those of you who might be leery about picking this book up because you're not a legal professional or law student, don't be afraid. Barnett's writing is clear and lucid, and his explanations can be grasped by those without formal legal and philosophical studies, such as myself. Barnett begins by outlining the 3 obstacles that any legal system must overcome, the problems of knowledge, interest, and power. Taking each one of these in it's turn, Barnett clearly outlines the rights and legal structure that would best acomplish those ends. The most radical part of the book is the section on power, which is where some exceedingly strong arguments for a polycentric legal order, as opposed to the monopolistic legal order of the State institution, are made. After doing so, Barnett turns to debunking some of the criticisms of his system. Anyone interested in law should definitely read this book, even if not a law student. Also, people from other related fields, such as economics and politics, are strongly urged to give this brilliant book a chance.

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