Cicero's equilibrium, the network of narratives in comparative law

Mitja Kovac (University of Ljubljana School of Economics and Business)
Margot Callewaert (KU Leuven, Department of Management, Strategy and Innovation)


The question of the circumstances under which an individual has a duty to disclose valuable information unknown to the person with whom she bargains represents one of the most puzzling and extensively debated legal issues. This question has fascinated scholars in philosophy, law and history from ancient times and has produced an impressive amount of literature, decisions and comments. This paper overcomes an old legal and moral crux and critically examines the disclosure duties of ancient Roman law and in particularly the famous Cicero’s decision on the famine at Rhodes. Moreover, this paper provides the comparative legal, economic, and behavioral analysis of pre-contractual disclosure duties in the ancient Roman law of contracts and compares them with its modern counterparts in the English, US and Belgium law of contracts. Furthermore, paper suggests that Cicero’s moral judgement and its centuries long circulation via the extensive network of narratives spread widely and influenced the development of the modern legal regimes around the globe. Cicero’s responsibilizing narrative is an instrument of mind and its circulation among lawyers and legal scholars helped to develop and sustain better social and legal norms. Finally, paper argues that comparative law might be seen as an extensive network of narratives, a special social structure, that enables a wide viral transmission of responsibilizing rationales and contextual adaptations that shape our moral decisions and reasoning on what is the moral thing to do.

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