There is some contestation regarding whether law is mostly about justice and fairness (and equality) or whether it's mostly about efficiency. The idea of efficiency doesn't seem to be extremely honourable, being connected as it is with capitalist markets and correlated associations such as greed, selfishness, and, worst of all, great wealth. This explains why lawyers value morality and human kindness above everything else. In Canada, where everybody is good and upholds the correct moral values, they're actually forcing lawyers to sign a blood oath promising to be good and kind and show equal love to everyone. Soon other countries will be following that illustrious example.
Many years ago, before the earth became polarized into simplistic Justice and Equality camps, and when it still seemed that perhaps there didn't have to be a contest between the two values, the idea of efficiency took centre stage in the company law reform debates preceding the UK's Companies Act of 2006. Some brave reformers put forward the idea that maybe the law should try to promote efficiency. This was expressed in the Law Commissions' consultation documents as being based on various presumptions:
Those were brave times. The primary goal was stated to be that of introducing policies 'to facilitate productive and creative activity in the economy in the most competitive and efficient way possible for the benefit of everyone'; efficiency was defined as 'maximum output and contribution to prosperity at minimum cost, rather than simple efficiency in the popular sense'. By 'efficiency in the popular sense they meant, of course, efficiency in the unpopular sense. It was then necessary to clarify that by efficiency they did not mean that henceforth it would be ok to steal, kill and plunder because, if you think about it carefully, you will soon realize that there's a difference between 'efficiency' and 'abuse'. Yes, I know, shocking.
Of greatest interest for this discussion is the first guiding principle: the presumption against prescription. This is a presumption against new rules and regulations. Yes, I know, shocking. We know that when trying to promote justice and fairness we have the opposite presumption: a presumption in favour of prescription. The more laws you introduce, the fairer and more just and more equal society becomes. If people fail to show kindness and love to each other willingly then we'll have to force them to do so. That's what law is for: to force people to be kind to one another. When efficiency is taken as the goal, the presumption is the opposite: don't intervene and force people to do stuff unless necessary.
I don't know about you, but the efficient world with all that talk of freedom and letting everyone get on with their private business sounds more attractive by the second. It just sounds friendlier and sunnier, doesn't it, than a grim dystopian world in which everyone is being whipped and flogged into obeying the Rules on How to Be Nice to Everyone.
But what if, left to their own devices, everyone turns on each other and before you know it people are raping and pillaging and life on earth as you know it is about to collapse into brutish anarchy? Only law can save us from Leviathan, or so we've been taught. The reformers did not seem to be unduly concerned. With breathtaking confidence, they write:
Self-regulation. Like I said, breathtaking confidence.