CYBERSPACE AND THE LAW OF THE HORSE
Frank H. Easterbrook
1996 U Chi Legal F 207
When he was dean of this law school, Gerhard Casper was proud that the University of Chicago did not offer a
course in "The Law of the Horse." He did not mean by this that Illinois specializes in grain rather than livestock. His
point, rather, was that "Law and . . . " courses should be limited to subjects that could illuminate the entire law. Instead
of offering courses suited to dilettantes, n1 the University of Chicago offered courses in Law and Economics, and Law
and Literature, taught by people who could be appointed to the world's top economics and literature departments--even
win the Nobel Prize in economics, as Ronald Coase has done.
I regret to report that no one at this Symposium is going to win a Nobel Prize any time soon for advances in
computer science. We are at risk of multidisciplinary dilettantism, or, as one of my mentors called it, the cross-
sterilization of ideas. Put together two fields about which you know little and get the worst of both worlds. Well, let me
be modest. I am at risk of dilettantism, and I suspect that I am not alone. Beliefs lawyers hold about computers, and
predictions they make about new technology, are highly likely to be false. This should make us hesitate to prescribe
legal adaptations for cyberspace. The blind are not good trailblazers.
Dean Casper's remark had a second meaning--that the best way to learn the law applicable to specialized endeavors
is to study general rules. Lots of cases deal with sales of horses; others deal with people kicked by horses; still more
deal with the licensing and racing of horses, or with the care veterinarians give to horses, or with prizes at horse shows.
Any effort to collect these strands into a course on "The Law of the Horse" is doomed to be shallow and to miss
unifying principles. Teaching 100 [*208] percent of the cases on people kicked by horses will not convey the law of
torts very well. Far better for most students--better,