I. Introduction Two kinds of remedies have traditionally been employed for breach of contract: legal relief and equitable relief. Legal relief normally takes the form of money damages. Equitable relief normally consists either of specific performance or an injunction – that is, the party in breach may be ordered to perform an act or to refrain from performing an act. In this article I will use a “consent theory of contract” to assess the choice between money damages and specific performance. (...) According to such a theory, contractual obligation is dependent on more fundamental entitlements of the parties and arises as a result of the parties' consent to transfer alienable rights. My thesis will be that the normal rule favoring money damages should be replaced with one that presumptively favors specific performance unless the parties have consented to money damages instead. The principal obstacle to such an approach is the reluctance of courts to specifically enforce contracts for personal services. The philosophical distinction between alienable and inalienable rights bolsters this historical reticence, since a right to personal services may be seen as inalienable. I will then explain why, if the subject matter of a contract for personal services is properly confined to an alienable right to money damages for failure to perform, specific enforcement of such contracts is no longer problematic. Finally, I shall consider whether the subject matter of contracts for corporate services is properly confined to money damages like contracts for personal services, or whether performance of corporate services can be made the subject of a valid rights transfer and judicially compelled in the same manner as contracts for external resources. (shrink)
In this provocative and engaging new book, Randy Barnett outlines a powerful and original theory of liberty structured by the liberal conception of justice and the rule of law. Drawing on insights from philosophy, political theory, economics, and law, he shows how this new conception of liberty can confront, and solve, the central societal problems of knowledge, interest, and power.
Suppose you are on a commercial airplane that is flying at 35,000 feet. Next to you sits a man who appears to be sleeping. In fact, this man has been drugged and put upon the plane without his knowledge or consent. He has never flown on a plane before and, indeed, has no idea what an airplane is. Suddenly the man awakes and looks around him. Terrified by the alien environment in which he finds himself, he searches for a door (...) or window from which to make an escape. As luck would have it, he is seated right next to a window exit and he begins to pull the handle that will open the window. You are aware that opening the window exit at this altitude will cause the cabin to quickly depressurize and that this man, you, and probably several other passengers will be sucked out the window to your deaths. You desperately want to stop him from opening the window. Now assume that for some reason it is impossible to prevent him physically from performing the deadly act. Your only option is to rationally persuade him to leave the window exit alone. You cry out to him and, with both hands on the handles, he turns to face you and waits to hear what you have to say. What sort of argument would you make? (shrink)