June 6, 2012 13:53 Age: 2 yrs

Library of Law and Liberty Praises Berman’s Work to Change Western Law Theory

In a recent four-part series of posts for the Library of Law and Liberty, author John O. McGinnis examines and praises late Emory Law Professor Harold Berman’s voluminous writing that illuminated the evolution of Western legal thought—from the dominant influence of the Catholic Church to the emergence of polycentric government.

McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor of Constitutional Law at Northwestern University. He was a student at Harvard University while Berman taught there, prior to joining Emory’s faculty. Berman died in 2007 at age 89, having taught at Emory for two decades.

In the first post, McGinnis shows Berman’s ease in explaining different forms of law that inherently arise from human transactions, including the professor’s famous illustration of a child asserting his rights and justifying his actions.

“No sketch of Harold Berman can be complete without a reference to an epigram in which he summarized children’s natural grasp of natural law.” McGinnis writes.

“A child says, ‘It’s my toy.’ That’s property law,” he said. “A child says, ‘You promised me.’ That’s contract law. A child says, ‘He hit me first.’ That’s criminal law. A child says, ‘Daddy said I could.’ That’s constitutional law.”

The series includes:

Harold Berman’s Revolution in Western Legal Thought, Part I

The Revolution Harold Berman Made, Part II

Harold Berman’s Revolution: Polycentric Liberty, Part III

Berman’s Revolution, Part IV: Understanding the Protestant Revolution of Liberty

Related links

Berman’s obituary in The New York Times

The Harold J. Berman Lecture at The Center for the Study of Law and Religion



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