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Martha C. Nussbaum

Should law look backward toward time-honored traditions, or forward toward the promotion of social welfare? In this chapter I study the debate between Burkean traditionalists (along with their legal allies) and the British Utilitarians, who find in tradition not wisdom but irrationality and exclusion, and who propose to remodel law along lines of scientific rationality, counting each person equally and promoting aggregate welfare. I examine the strongest arguments for each side and propose a compromise. Keywords: common law, Utilitarianism, Burke, Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick, Holmes, Cardozo