Speculations of contract, or how contract law stopped worrying and learned to love risk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter analyzes that paradox by concentrating on a developmental stage of the legal treatment of transactions whose primary object is risk. Contract law is at pains to distinguish illegitimate speculation from legitimate risk allocation. The idea of wager or even of gambling presents a paradox for contract law. A basic tenet of common law contract doctrine is that contracts to wager are unenforceable, since they are deemed contracts in contravention of public policy. The focus on turn-of-the-century cases should be lull the reader into a false sense of security regarding the question of distinguishing between contract and gambling. The background to the doctrinal analysis and policy discussion is the shifting morality and religious world-view that were dominant in the United States until late in the nineteenth century. The practical distinction between the simple contract of sale and commodities trading is the context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGoverning risks
EditorsPat O'malley
Place of PublicationAldershot, England
Publisher Ashgate
ISBN (Electronic)9781315253893
ISBN (Print)0754625079, 9780754625070
StatePublished - 2005

Publication series

NameInternational library of essays in law and society


  • Law and economics
  • Sociological jurisprudence
  • Risk management


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