Bruno Leoni notes the strong connection between economic freedom and decentralized legal decision-making (1961)

Bruno Leoni

Found in Freedom and the Law (LF ed.)

In the Introduction to Freedom and the Law the great Italian legal scholar and past President of the Mont Pelerin Society, Bruno Leoni, noted the strong connection between economic freedom and decentralized legal decision-making:

Unless I am wrong, there is more than an analogy between the market economy and a judiciary or lawyers' law, just as there is much more than an analogy between a planned economy and legislation. If one considers that the market economy was most successful both in Rome and in the Anglo-Saxon countries within the framework of, respectively, a lawyers' and a judiciary law, the conclusion seems to be reasonable that this was not a mere coincidence.

Leoni berates economists who, in most cases, can see the benefits of decentralised, rivalrous activity in purely economic activities, but do not see that the same situation exists with legal services which, in the modern world, have been the exclusive preserve of a centralised, national, government monopoly. He slyly suggests that this is a result of the lack of historical knowledge on the part of these economists who not not realise that historically in Ancient Rome, in the free medieval cities, and in the Anglo-Saxon world such legal services have been provided in exactly this manner. A close reading of Adam Smith shows that he was aware of the fact that different courts competed for business and charged different fees for their services in his own day.