We often ask students to consider the role of law and policy in shaping society and providing a means for solving problems. But what problems has the law ever solved?
Posing that question to students, what do they come up with? Certainly, the legal system provides a way for disputes between individual persons or entities to be resolved, one way or another. The rules of the system say that the dispute is over.
But what about overarching, systemic, societal problems? I’m thinking about residential segregation at the moment, and the resulting disparities in wealth accumulation, educational quality, and employment opportunity, just to name a few. Discriminatory housing policies were once implemented and enforced by law; then they were prohibited. Particularly where a good share of the responsibility for the development of a given problem can be directly traced to prior law, have legal reforms ever resulted in solving that problem? Is this a question that can be posed in some manner to students, as a means of developing the habit of critiquing and improving the law?