The Power of Independent Thinking

Simple Rules for Open Markets
Posted: Mon. February 2, 2015

May 6, 1996

While the White House and Congress tinker with the rate of growth of government spending and whether the welfare stste is better administered at the federal or state level, eminent legal scholar and author Richard Epstein now challenges the very roots of runaway liability and the regulatory-welfare state.

In his widely acclaimed new book, Simple Rules for a Complex World, Epstein presents a new legal framework to restore a Jeffersonian society based on individual rights, freedom to choose and the Rule of Law. In so doing, Epstein articulates six principles rooted in common law to guide law and public policy in complex times:

(1) "Individual Self-Ownership"– all individuals rightfully own themselves. (2) "First Possession"– individuals have a right to own property and almost everything should be privately owned.

(3) "Voluntary Exchange"– individuals are free to contract with others for peaceful purposes.

(4) "Protecting the Things that Are Yours"– tort law provides the most effective way to protect individuals from theft, fraud, rape, and murder. (5) "Necessity"– private property rights may be violated only in extreme cases of emergency.

(6) "Takings"– in any case of government abridgment of private property rights, through regulation or seizure, the government must justly compensate the owner financially.

At this Independent Policy Forum, Richard Epstein will employ these principles to critique the thousands of burdensome and counterproductive regulations, taxes and other government policies. He will address taxes and income redistribution, labor laws, and employment discrimination, environmental regulations, product liability laws, rent controls, zoning, and much more.

Since publication of this highly acclaimed 1985 book, Takings, Richard Epstein has become widely regarded as the preeminent legal contrarian of our time, challenging the philosophies of liberals and conservatives alike. His path-breaking scholarship and penetrating analyses have launched a quiet revolution, earning him the respect of even his staunchest critics. With the escalating anti-political sentiment of the public and the growing demand to de-bureaucratize and and de-politicize American life, Epstein's powerful and learned call for devolution, tort reform, economic liberalization and privatization could not be more timely.

Richard A. Epstein

Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Author, Simple Rules for a Complex World

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