Risk, Rationality, and Inalienability


This conference explored a basic and not always hidden premise of modern American legal doctrine, in torts, contract law, and products liability: that valid consent (i.e., the exercise of liberty) cannot be expressed because of the presence of important risk. Is there something about the human mind that makes lucid handling of risk impossible? To what degree should one be allowed to assume risks contractually? Is there something about substantial hazards that precludes free and responsible individuals’ assuming of significant risks?


Conference Readings

Bouckaert B. and G. De Geest, eds. Encyclopedia of Law and Economics, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1999.

Wagner v. International Ry. Co., 232 N.Y. 176  (Court of Appeals of New York 1921).

Lamson v. American Ax & Tool Co., 177 Mass. 144, N.E. 585  (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester 1900).

Cremeans et. al. v. Willmar Henderson Manufacturing Company, 57 Ohio St. 3d 145, 566 N.E.2d 1203  (Supreme Court of Ohio 1991).

Sarah B. Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue Apartment Corporation, 439 F. 2d 477, 141 U.S. App. D.C. 370  (United Sates Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit 1970).

Becker, Gary S. and Kevin M. Murphy. "A Theory of Rational Addiction." The Journal of Political Economy 96, no. 4 (August 1988): 675-700.

Coleman, Jules L. "Tort Law and the Demands of Corrective Justice." Indiana Law Journal 67 (Winter 1992): 1-21.

Epstein, Richard. "The Unintended Revolution in Product Liability Law." Cardozo Law Review 10 (August 1989): 1-21.

Hasen, Richard L. "The Efficient Duty to Rescue." International Review of Law and Economics 15 (June 1995): 1-10.

Kennedy, Duncan. “Distributive and Paternalistic Motives in Contract and Tort Law, with Special Reference to Compulsory Terms and Unequal Bargaining Power.” Maryland Law Review 41 (1982): 563-583.

Kronman, Anthony T. "Paternalism and the Law of Contracts." Yale Law Journal 92 (April 1983): 1-26.

McConnell, Terrence. Inalienable Rights: The Limits of Consent in Medicine and the Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Posner, Richard. “The Ethical Significance of Free Choice: A Reply to Professor West.” Harvard Law Review 99 (1985-1986): 1431-1448.

Rose-Ackerman, Susan. "Inalienability and the Theory of Property Rights." Columbia Law Review 85 (1985): 931-969.