September 2008, Volume 94, Issue 5|
The Chicken and the Egg: Kenneth S. Abraham's "The Liability Century"
94 Va. L. Rev. 1259 (2008)
Books about the tort system tend to be polemics relentlessly drained of nuance. Either the tort system is awful—an unmitigated hindrance to the national economy and progress—or the tort system is the only thing standing between the welfare of the American public and the abyss: its principal flaw is that there is not more of it. The Liability Century is, by contrast, a largely anthropological exercise. Peering over the ridge separating the old century from the new, Professor Abraham examines what might be labeled "The Ages of American Liability Law." Through these ages, he elucidates the appealing metaphor with which he opens his study:
Astronomers have discovered a solar formation they call a "binary star." This formation consists of two suns, each in orbit around the other. Their center of gravity lies at a point in between them, and they revolve around that center of gravity. Neither star could remain where it is, or as it is, without the other. They are two separate bodies, but each is dependent on the other for its place in the universe.
In this Essay, I provide an overview of Abraham's major themes, comment on their persuasiveness, and offer some direction to other sources readers might wish to consider.
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