Today I was introduced to equity law. Unfortunately, I also had to read some Hegel today. Once again philosophy had some relevance today. While we did not explore the Hegelian concept of equity in detail (and thank god we didn’t), it was part of the quick rundown of the history and formation of equity in the UK and how it exists in a country governed by Common Law.
The surprising thing is I learned is the actual amount of flexibility given to the judges to make decisions based on oughts and not what has been prescribed by Law. While I was not unaware about the flexibility, I was not aware of the depth. On a personal level, this resonated with me as we talked about the necessity of trying to achieve just results (and the Chancery gets this from its religious background). As a strong supporter of individual rights, equity makes sense; as Rights are about oughts.* While we did not go into what is just and had to accept that it is dependent on the Chancellor (person in charge of the Chancery). I hope that this will help me understand how the judge’s decision is made better. The other main thing I noticed from the tone of the lecturer that there was some concern with the notion of deciding what is right and then working out a path to the conclusion. To me it just seems like a form of backwards induction to get to an optimal outcome, nothing really to be worried or concerned about, just reminded me of the extended game is in game theory.
The next lecture I had was tort law. Now for those unaware, tort is French in the wrong (which I presume is from the Normans). The lecture itself was more an overview of the year ahead and what to expect. What was most striking to me was the notion that tort is used for compensation and that if one were to take the police to court and not ask for compensation (or say that using the payment for an altruistic purpose such as charity), then the courts would not hear the case and send you to the police complaints department. While I can understand why this makes sense, does it help provide justice (which I have been informed is part of tort law)? I would say no, however, is this necessarily a bad thing? If one is just looking for an acknowledgement of a wrongdoing, then going to the courts just seems like a waste of time. Moving along to one final point, which is about defamation being part of tort law. Luckily for me, I am a subscriber to Private Eye whose editor, Ian Hislop, is apparently the most sued man in the UK and the Eye regularly talks about the issue of the magazine and in its podcast. See page 94.
*(I know Human Rights law is not the same as equity before you start typing out any comments)