The institutions of private law (torts, contracts, restitution, property) are central to our legal system. Yet people disagree deeply about their purpose. Some see them as instruments for promoting general welfare, such that they differ in form but not aim from other areas of law. Others think that these institutions reflect (or perhaps construct) a distinctive kind of interpersonal morality, more concerned with justice and fairness than welfare. In this class, we will take up these foundational questions about private law. We'll ask, for instance, whether tort law does (or should) aim to right wrongs or promote efficient behavior. We'll consider the role that luck plays in tort law and what that tells us about the institution. And, time permitting, we may take up some doctrinal questions--about the nature of consent, causation, or similar sorts of issues.
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