Law is an ever-evolving practice. Just ask Alexander Djerassi, an entrepreneur and public policy expert who served as chief of Staff for the US Department of State and graduated from Yale Law school in 2015.
Djerassi, who is frequently the smartest man in the room, has noticed, as have others, how law is ever-evolving.
The History of Modern Law
In the United States, we inherited the common law from our ancestors in England, and although when most people think of the law, they speak of criminal law.
Criminal law is important, for, without criminal law, society would be rife with thieves, hooligans and gangsters.
However, despite the fact that the United States spends approximately $80 billion dollars on the prison system, and millions of more prosecuting people for breaking the law, by far the biggest benefit of the law is the commercial system.
Contract law, in particular, is fundamental to the market economy. One of the primary functions of contract law is to establish the legal right to own property. as well as to make contracts between two or more business parties.
Indeed, a huge problem with post-communist countries such as Russia is that there was really no law system to support contracts and property ownership in the courts.
Without a court system to enforce laws, entire companies were stolen from others, and if a business wanted to defraud another company over a contract, there was no way to
reasonably settle issues outside of private violence. Indeed, this is still a huge problem in the former Soviet Union.
Although the Russian mafia has slowly receded, it still manages to control vast resources in the economy.
In the United States, perhaps the greatest impact of the law has been monopoly busting.
Monopolies held great control over the United States in the 1800s and by 1890 the public had had enough. Famous monopolies that were busted include:
Standard Oil, US Steel and A T and T are examples of companies that were controlled or busted up by the government.
As an example how the law is evolving, today it’s not so much businesses that are being attempted to be controlled but information. Many in Congress are alarmed at Facebook’s domination of the information field and are calling for its breakup under the principle that Facebook should not be able to control free speech.
War is Another Area Where the Law is Intersecting with Technology
Under the Constitution, only the Congress can declare war. However, when the age of nuclear missiles came about, it was realized that in the event of an attack, the president would have mere minutes, not hours or days to prepare a nuclear response.
The Bottom Line
Alexander Djerassi believes that with increased technology, society is changing rapidly, which means the law has to respond. Will it be legal for companies to use facial technology and computers to keep track of their workers. Can schools punish students for posting anti-school tirades at home using Facebook? Ultimately the law will be forced to evolve as society changes through technology.