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Legal Systems Very Different From Ours

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  108 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Published 2016
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Petra-X Off having adventures
1. Chinese Law - the entry of people into government service sounds insane. They have to study all sorts of subjects and pass with good grades, but none of the subjects have the slightest thing to do with government or anything related. But it's the same as our own system. People go into government having a degree in, say, Philosophy and then a Masters in Medieval English Literature. The author says there are better ways of finding out if people are capable of studying and understanding concepts ...more
Christopher Hudson Jr.
As expected, David Friedman details lot of interesting information on various unique legal systems and customs. His comprehension of such a wide, and often bizarre, subject matter is truly impressive. Where the book suffers is it's readability. There's no consistent chapter format that would make it easy for the reader to process and compare cultures, and many chapters seem to drag along with uninteresting information. The two most coherent chapters happen to be the two not written by Friedman ( ...more
Aaron Gertler
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, but frequently dry, and the big ideas can be summarized in shorter form. If you think you might want to read it, start with this review, and see if the subject interests you enough to keep going. ...more
I've classified this book into a variety of shelves. To be fair to the author and the book, it doesn't really fit in any of them. Yes, this book explores societies, policy, psychology and even economics to a small extent, but it doesn't really focus entirely on any one. A book dealing with legal systems rarely does. Ideally I should have classified this into a "legal" bookshelf, but I don't want that shelf on my profile and I don't think it fits there either.

This book explores the legal systems
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Very interesting subject matter, but the book is very rough around the edges - needed better editing I think.
J. Boo
Nov 14, 2017 is currently reading it
An older draft is found here:

Professor Friedman has kindly informed me that the finished book has recently been published and is available from various internet booksellers.
W.B. Habsburg
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Most history books will teach you about the standard aspects of a culture: it's kings and it's wars. Seldom do we get real insight into how a culture actually functioned. Having lived in England my entire life, I was still largely oblivios to much of what was within the chapter on the legal system of 19th century england. When thinking about political/legal/systems it can be very hard to imagine how a system could function differently: this book really helps solve that.

The chapter about 19th cen
Alex Telfar
Apr 19, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting book!
But. Not well written: it was dry, and often not clear.
It seems to me that there is organising left to be done.

I woul like to see a table that organises, for each legal system; who is the juror, who is the judge, who is the prosecutor, ... (and what are their incentives / costs).
Also, I think it might be possible (once these legal systems are more formally characterised) to trace the evolution of legal systems (much like language).

What problem does a legal system solve?
A lo
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An amazing book about a variety of legal systems from different places and times, and analysis by a brilliant professor of how they deal with certain universal challenges. Especially interesting when he proposes using some of these elements to solve problems in our current legal system - crimes committed by the government, malicious prosecution, certain crimes and torts which are expensive to prosecute, and patent trolls.

One area he didn’t touch much is the ability to use technology to make some
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rosie by: A friend suggested it. Also, Scott Alexander reviewed it.
Quality of the writing: 5
Quality of the content/organisation/research: 5
Impact on my perspective: 5
Personal resonance: 5
Rereading potential: 5
Overall score: 5

The reason I read it: Researching pirate law. 

Context of reading: I have also been listening to the series of original lectures from the course David Friedman based this book on. (By the way, he's Milton Friedman's son.)

All societies face versions of the same problems. How to both deter and punish crime. How to handle groups within s
Max Martin
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Friedman covers the legal systems of 13 societies. Each is covered quickly, focusing often on the incentives that allowed the system to work. As the introduction says:

"The underlying idea is simple. All human societies face about the same problems. They deal with them in an interesting variety of different ways. All of them are grownups—there is little reason to believe that the people who created the legal systems of Imperial China, Periclean Athens, or saga-period Iceland were any less intelli
Dio Mavroyannis
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not really sure what to say about this book. In one sense, I think this book should be much larger since there are many more legal systems to discuss. On the other hand, it's a bit dry to just go through cultures one by one. I think this book has great content, it the evidence behind the theory in the author's other work "machinery of freedom". Yet there is very little exposition and context of the theory in this book. This may not be a problem as such but without a theory, the reader is often l ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
An interesting delve into a handful of systems that work in ways ranging from odd to horrific to modern sensibilities. A bit dry in places and less complete than I'd like in others, it's nevertheless a fascinating read if you've got an interest in niche topics ...more
John Igo
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it
A summary of this book doesn't make sense since this book is a summary of legal systems across space and time. From the Plains Indians to the Gypsies and Saga era Iceland.
With the fool heartedness in mind… This book is a dozen odd case studies of legal systems different from ours - however it is also a primer to different cultures. Like looking at Anabaptist (Amish -> Mennonite) legal practices without a little knowledge of their culture wouldn't make any sense. In many chapters the culture int
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economic-liberty
A very dry start but worth plodding through. Friedman takes a deep dive into many differing legal systems from across history and across the globe. I felt he was a bit overly focused on English Common Law but that is just likely because there are so very many sources.

The final third is where things get interesting. Friedman first does a more direct compare and contrast between elements of differing legal systems and also contrasting them to modern (mostly North American) systems. He also takes s
Neel Nanda
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Did not finish. I LOVE the premise of this book, and really enjoyed the exploration of other cultures and ways of thinking about law. My main complaint is that it felt far too verbose for my tastes. I was most interested in understanding the key concepts of the various legal systems and their implications, and instead this dove deep into the details. I found it difficult to skim and get the key points that way, and ultimately gave up
Jeff Greason
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up just because of good word of mouth and found it fascinating. It has extreme relevance to the emerging mechanisms for the interaction of private and government actors in space, where the lack of a sovereign authority will encourage more 'private' dispute resolution. Many useful historical examples have features to serve as inspiration. ...more
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fun read. Sometimes gets repetitive. I found learning about how multiple law codes coexist in one area very interesting, along with the more bizarre law codes (Somali, Roma) that exhibit cultural relativism in its fullest.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
I found the portion of this book that I read (about 60 pages), so boring I decided to discard the book and move on. I rarely give up on books. But this read like a cross between a government form and the worst-written history book from the 1950s. I can’t recommend it and have no plan to revisit it.
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
beautiful examples across cultures and history of the logic of law. great stuff.
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly interesting.
May 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Read the draft on his website.
Soham Chakraborty
rated it it was amazing
Apr 16, 2020
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Mar 19, 2019
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Jul 31, 2019
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Aug 09, 2020
Christopher Ehmann
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Mar 05, 2020
Rob Weir
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Aug 30, 2019
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I am an academic economist currently employed as a law professor, although I have never taken a course for credit in either field. My specialty, insofar as I have one, is the economic analysis of law, the subject of my book _Law's Order_.

In recent years I have created and taught two new law school seminars at Santa Clara University. One was on legal issues of the 21st century, dis

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