Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Richard Epstein On Originalism

UPDATE: There's a better version of the video (below) here on the CATO site.

Here's a great video on Epstein's latest book, the Classical Liberal Constitution. At about 10:15 he gives a concise explanation of his stance on Originalism and why he is so obsessed with Roman law:

I think you could teach a whole semester on just this one talk. He hits on most of his major themes all without taking a breath.

Also, his latest Hoover article is a particularly good one:

Here's a great example of how Epstein draws analogies to corporate rules to help interpret legal rules:
Indeed, the vital element in this clause is that it prohibits any transfer payment from one group of individuals to another, as those cannot serve the “general welfare of the United States.” To see why, take the analogous case where a corporate charter allows the Board of Directors to adopt only those measures that advance the general welfare of the corporation. Without question, the so-called business judgment rule insulates corporate officers and directors when they work in good faith to advance the welfare of the corporation, and thus all its shareholders, in transactions with third parties. But it is a per se violation of that rule for the directors to tax one subclass of shareholders in order to pay dividends to a second subclass. All transfer payments among shareholders clearly violate their duty to advance the welfare of shareholders as a group.
He links to this great diagram which I think complements his "law and geometry" stuff (discussed elsewhere).

As always, great stuff!

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