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Jul 26, 1991

Randy E. Barnett on Justice and Law

Randy E. Barnett is a lawyer and legal theorist, and a Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute and the Goldwater Institute. He also teaches constitutional law and contracts at Georgetown University Law Center.

In this lecture, given in 1991 in Aix-en-Provence, France, Barnett talks about justice, the law, and the relationship between the two. He starts by defining both terms and listing three possible relationships between the two: either there is no relationship at all between a rights-based concept of justice and the law, justice is higher than the law (or the law arises out of defined principles of justice), or justice is equal to the law and both concepts serve each other in practice. Barnett dismantles two of these possible relationships and concludes that legal orders must impart legitimacy on the law by making laws that are compatible with higher concepts of justice, but are not solely dependent on justice because the law is also reliant on convention in practice.

Note: This lecture was delivered to a mostly French-speaking audience. ‘Liberal’ in French should be considered to translate to ‘classical liberal’ or ‘libertarian’ in modern American parlance.