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The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law New Ed Edition

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198297291
ISBN-10: 0198297297
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Editorial Reviews


" 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

About 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (March 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198297297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198297291
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on December 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Does a just human society require a centralized, paternalistic State? Randy Barnett says it requires only a social order of a certain kind, namely one characterized by his chosen subtitle, "justice and the rule of law."

In this brilliant work, which should be read as soon as possible by all parties to the anarchism/minarchism debate, Barnett tries to show what such a social order might look like. Here I shall briefly summarize the book's contents.

In an introductory chapter, "Liberty vs. license," he discusses just enough of the philosophy of "natural law" and "natural rights" to let his readers know he is _not_ writing a book about them and that his subsequent analysis does not stand or fall with any particular understanding of the origin of rights.

He then plunges, in Part 1, into the "Problem of Knowledge," which occupies the next five chapters. Here he deals in turn with what he calls the first-, second-, and third-order problems of knowledge: using resources, communicating justice, and specifying conventions. (Importantly, he acknowledges that "background rights" to life and property are not sufficient to determine the specific forms these rights should take in every case. What he has called the "third-order problem" -- specifying conventions that secure justice -- is thus not settled merely by an abstract account of "rights.") His argument here, of course, is that the classical-liberal conception of justice and the rule of law is what is needed in order to solve these knowledge problems.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By John Thrasher on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Randy Barnett makes a compelling and highly readable case for a "polycentric legal order" in his book The Structure of Liberty. The novel starting point of this work is the application of market strategies to a legal system. In this regard, The Structure of Liberty is the most interesting and certainly one of the most clearly written and cogently argued, works on legal philosophy in a very long time. Taking his cue from modern rights theorists, public choice theory, and an understanding of the decentralized nature of knowledge in society, Barnett offers an alternative way to guarantee justice in a free society. At the outset it is worth mentioning, however, that Barnett is not engaged in the radical utopian theorizing which is all too common in the libertarian literature. Barnett has a background that definitely has the effect of immunizing him against such exercises, acting as an assistant district attorney in Chicago and acting as a defense attorney for several big name clients in federal appeals courts. Barnett is familiar with how the legal system works at its basic levels, and this is possibly what informs him in the direction he takes.
The first point that Barnett makes in the introduction that colors the entire work is that every right is also a restriction or, stated differently, every right implies the warrant to do violence to those that violate that right. Because of this, a proper order of rights is necessary to define a system that separates legitimate claims of rights from illegitimate ones, so that the only violence that is done is just and the only rights that are protected are legitimate ones. Any system that presumes to do this, however, must deal with three fundamental problems: knowledge, interest, and power.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is definitely of the same status as Hayek's _Law, Legislation, and Liberty_, Leoni's _Freedom and the Law_, or Benson's _Enterprise of Law_. And although his debt to Hayek, Leoni,and Benson is obvious, he definitely has a very original approach and some quite new ideas. His background in law (both as a public prosecutor and as a law school professor) gives him a lot of insights that the rest of us ordinarily wouldn't think of. This book would be an indispensable guide to designing a legal framework for a free nation.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jason B. Romano on October 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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