This bibliographical essay traces the intellectual history of spontaneous order in both economics and the law. Barry's essay is a thorough and informative survey of this central topic. An extensive bibliography is included: Bibliography.
Barry also makes an elegant and subtle distinction: The evolution of laws, commonly cited as analogous to that of markets, differs from that of markets precisely because laws lack the equivalent of a price system to convey information and feedback to the widespread participants. Hence a common-law legal system may be less likely to iterate in on an equilibrium than a freely-developing market system.
Startlingly timely in a world where Afghanistan suddenly has an opportunity to reorganize and write a constitution afresh, Tracy's book contrasts theory and evidence resulting from various kinds of government organizations (from monarchical to representative), with an emphasis on the effects on liberty and economic advancement. He brings logic, creativity, and a modern scientific approach to the previously murky field. He systematically works through many substantial flaws in Montesquieu's influential 1752 work, and delves into Montesquieu's logical gaps. The book hits its stride with Tracy's chapters on Montesquieu's Book XI (on "Laws Which Establish Public Liberty, In Relation to the Constitution"), and thereafter brings fresh political and economic insights that can reward students, teachers, and the curious at all levels.
David Hart's Annotated Bibliography illuminates Tracy's life and thought, including his public opposition both to the Napoleonic government and to the subsequent system of constitutional monarchy. He details Tracy's career in academia and politics, from Tracy's initial renouncing of his title, to his stint in prison, to his educational reforms, to his influence on the way worldwide constitutions and governments were and continue to be arranged. Hart describes how Tracy's own term "ideology" was turned against him by Napoleon and Marx, and places in context Tracy's other remarkable works.
Tracy's values of human equality and intellectual pursuit show through in every chapter of his work. His explanations are clever and clear, and include material on the benefits of specialization of labor, free trade, and even include an explanation of Ricardian equivalence (before Ricardo). Tracy's enthusiasm, creativity, and intellectual honesty are inspiring and thought-provoking throughout this fine work.
Williamson, Oliver, The Economic Institutions of Capitalism
The cuneiform inscription in the Liberty Fund logo is the earliest-known written appearance of the word "freedom" (amagi), or "liberty." It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 B.C. in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.