bad man theory

bad-man theory. The jurisprudential doctrine or belief that a bad person’s view of the law represents the best test of what the law actually is because that person will carefully calculate precisely what the rules allow and operate up to the rules’ limits. • This theory was first espoused by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his essay The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457 (1897). In the essay, Holmes maintained that a society’s legal system is defined by predicting how the law will affect a person, as opposed to considering the ethics or morals supposedly underlying the law. Under Holmes’s theory, the prediction is best made by viewing the law as would a “bad man” who is unconcerned with morals. Such a person is not concerned with acting morally or in accord with a grand philosophical scheme. Rather, that person is concerned with whether and to what degree certain acts will incur punishment by the public force of the law. See LEGAL REALISM. — Also termed prediction theory.
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