From teaching economics at Bangor College China, in Changsha, China – some reflections had been published here earlier, and also here – I arrived now – after some interim work in France and The Netherlands – in Munich, Bavaria, a generous grant from the Max-Planck-Institute for Social Law and Social Policy allows me occupying from today a research position for the next twelve month, looking at issues around digitisation – some books I asked for are already at my disposal on my new desk. And right at the beginning, after having been giving out against orthodox economics [not so much from a heterodox, but from an unorthodox position (or was it more from an alternative orthodoxy?)], I am now wondering if – cum grano salis – heterodox thinking is needed also when it comes to law?
[scan from: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust – Der Tragödie Erster Teil, mit Illustrationen aus drei Jahrhunderten, ed. by Hans Hanning, Berlin: Rütting & Loening, 1982, 2nd ed., p. 123
Teufelspakt_Faust-Mephisto, by Julius Nisle]
And much as Marx did not ‘invent communism out of the blue’, but based it in historical analysis [see in particular Engels’ Work on ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State’] , such historical review is also most valuable in jurisprudence. A nice passage I found – in a book by St Germain, writing on the Dialogues between a doctor of divinity and a student in the laws of England – and surely not suggesting that we find the alternatives in divinity …
And so it appeareth, that equity taketh not away the very right, but only that that seemeth to be right
by the general words of the law. Nor it is not ordained against the cruelness of the law, for the law in such case generally taken is good in himself; but equity followeth the law in all particular cases where right and justice requireth, notwithstanding the general rule of the law be to the contrary. Wherefore it appeareth., that if any law were made by man without any such exception expressed or implied, it were manifestly unreasonable, and were not to be suffered …
Reading this on page 45, we read already a page earlier as definition:
Equity is a right wiseness that considereth all the particular circumstances of the deed, the which also is tempered with the sweetness of mercy. And such an equity must always be observed in every law of man, and in every general rule thereof: and that knew he well that said thus, Laws covet to be ruled by equity. And the wise man saith, Be not overmuch right wise;
for the extreme right wiseness is extreme wrong: as who saith, If thou take all that the words of the law giveth thee thou shalt sometime do against the law.