Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bruno Leoni- “Do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to yourself”

Professor F A Hayek on Bruno Leoni:

Excerpts from his 1968 lecture:

  • “Lovable and dynamic, he lived life with such an intensity that more than most men he seemed to embody life itself. By a cruel fate he was taken from us at the height of his powers when great accomplishments justified the expectation of even greater achievements.
  • In what follows I must confine myself to the three aspects of his work in which for some ten or twelve years our efforts had run parallel courses and where is consequence I had come to know him rather well. The first is his effort to overcome the departmentalisation of the social sciences and especially to bridge the gulf which has come to separate the study of law from that of the theoretical social sciences. The second is the effort to provide a satisfactory intellectual foundation for the defence of individual freedom, in which he so strongly believed. The third point will be certain important suggestions contained in his literary work which to me seem to point the way to the solution of some central intellectual difficulties of political theory, but where, since Bruno Leoni was not given time to work them out fully, it will be the task of those who wish to honour his memory to try to continue where he left off.
  • I first met Bruno Leoni fourteen years ago at the University of Chicago where I was then teaching and where he had gone, I believe, mainly to deepen his acquaintance with Anglo-American law and political institutions. We soon discovered on how many points our interests and ideal coincided and this brought him soon into that international organisation of scholars and publicists for the study of the conditions requisite for the preservation of individual freedom, the Mont Pelerin Society, which I had started a few years earlier and to whose affairs he was later to give so much of his time and energy. We again spent some time together almost ten years ago at Claremont College, California, at a seminar devoted to the problems of liberty, where he delivered that course of lectures on Freedom and the Law about which I shall have to speak more fully later. It was then that I first came to see Bruno Leoni’s capacity of inspiring an audience, his untiring readiness to discuss intellectual problems at every hour of day and night, and his general zest for life which made him grasp all opportunities for instruction and enjoyment which the environment of the moment offered. I may be permitted to mention here a little episode which occurred on that occasion. We lecturers at the seminar vere kept pretty busy and valued the three hours after the mid-day meal during which we had no definite obligations. When Bruno Leoni regularly disappeared during that period, we drew at first the natural conclusion. But how wrong we were! He had discovered an opportunity of taking flying lessons at a nearby aerodrome and spent at the controls of an airplane the hours we others used for rest!
  • He was, of course, primarily a lawyer and, I understand, highly successful as a practizing lawyer. But even with in the field of law he was as much a philosopher, sociologist and historian of law as a master of positive law. That he was also an eminent political scientist is perhaps only natural in a teacher of constitutional law as interested in the history of ideas as he was.
  • A glance at a list of Bruno Leoni's publications shows how varied his interests were. The list I have before me enumerates more than eighty publications of which more than seventy date from the last twenty years. Much of this is difficult of access to a foreigner and unknown to me.
  • It is particularly to be regretted that he did not find time to prepare for publication the suggestive and original first volume of his Lezioni di Filosofia del Diritto which deals with the thought of classical antiquity and which in 1949 he had issued in mimeographed form for his students. Especially his treatment of the relation betweeu physis and nomos in ancient Greek thought seems to me to contain much that would deserve development. From my incomplete knowledge of his writings it seems to me, however, that the one published systematic book of his, which is available only in English and Spanish, is much the most important of his works, both for what it explicitly says and even more for the hints it contains of further developments, problems it raises without fully answering them and which it now remains for us, his friends and admirers, to take up and to develop. In this chief contention it is so unconventional, and even directly opposed to much that is today almost universally accepted, that there is some danger that it may not be taken as seriously as it deserves or dismissed as a crotchety speculation of a man out of sympathy with his time.
  • It would perhaps be possible to distort the spirited account of his chief thesis in the assertion that the invention of legislation was a mistake and that the world would do better to renounce legislation altogether and to rely exclusively on the development of the law by judges and jurisconsults as has been true of the development of the ancient Roman law and of the Common law of England.
  • …the law which emerges from jurisdiction and the work of the jurists of necessity possesses certain properties which the products of legislation may but need not possess, but which are essential if individual freedom is to be preserved. He has explicitly brought out only some of those properties which judge-made law necessarly possesses but which all law ought to possess in a society of free men. He argues persuasively, and has convinced me, that although the codificatiou of the law was intended to increase the certainty of the law, it did at most enhance the short-run certainty of the law, and I am no longer sure that even this is strictly true, while the habit of altering the law by legislation certainly decreases its long-run certainty. He did show further that one characteristic of the rules of just conduct which emerge from the spontaneous process of law-finding was that these rules were essentially negative, rules aiming at the determination of a protected domain for each individual and as such an effective guarantee of individual liberty. As to many other profound thinkers the task of the law was to him not so much to create justice as to prevent injustice. And in his stress on the Golden Rule, “Do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to yourself” - a rule which, as he was fond of pointing out, Confucianism had in common with Christianity - he suggested an equally negative test of the justice of such rules by the consintent application of which we might hope progressively to approach justice.

No comments:

Post a Comment