New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz
Chapter 10: Law and Economic Development: Common Law versus Civil Law
Francisco Cabrillo 1 INTRODUCTION There is relatively ample literature based on the notion of demonstrating the superiority of common law, with its origins in medieval England and furthest developments in the United States, over the civil law system, on which the majority of the European and Latin American countries as well as numerous others around the world are based. There is plentiful room to discuss the validity of this position. The main objective of this chapter is not to oﬀer a complete overview of this discussion, but rather to analyse economic development, based on market economy and industrialization, centred around the two major themes of private law: contract law and tort law. We shall look at some of the most interesting features in the evolution of these two branches of the law in the United States and Spain, the former a common law country, the latter belonging to the civil law tradition. The thesis put forward in this chapter, based around the analysis of the aforementioned is the following: both civil and common law systems have followed a parallel evolution, searching for similar objectives and adapting themselves to the ideas and dominant values present at historical moments in Western society. Moreover, the Zeitgeist, and in many cases dominant values in a given society, conditioned legal evolution to a larger degree than internal structures present within a speciﬁc judicial system. In accordance with this interpretation, neither the principle of freedom of contract nor the remaining legal institutions that have...
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