Ruling from the Mensch: Morals, Social Norms, and Law and Order

Peter Molk, Yale Law School


External legal rules are only one of many ways to direct behavior in a desired direction. People sustain cooperation in a variety of situations using systems of self-governing internally-developed and internally-enforced norms and morals. These systems have a feedback relationship with external rules. Norms and morals both influence, and are influenced by, externally-imposed legal systems. This Article examines norms’ and morals’ ability to sustain cooperation, both in laboratory settings and in everyday experiences. The relationship between norms and morals on the one hand, and law and order on the other, is then examined, using quantitative datasets measuring dimensions of culture and the rule of law. This examination builds on prior work that emphasizes, perhaps too strongly, the impact of legal origins – civil vs. common law – on law and order. Finally, this Article considers the feedback relationship between legal rules and norms and morals, exploring how rules may replace internal governance both explicitly and, through their expressive function, implicitly. The specific case of legal rules’ influence on culture adopted through the naturalization process is considered.