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We look to legal theory to tell us when the use of legal force against an individual is morally justified. We look to contract theory, in particular, to tell us which interpersonal commitments the law ought to enforce. Contract theory at present, however, does not provide a satisfactory answer to this question. The five best known theories or principles of contractual obligation-the will theory, the reliance theory, the fairness theory, the efficiency theory and the bargain theory each have very basic shortcomings. A consent theory of contract avoids these difficulties while explaining coherent obligation in a plausible and coherent manner.

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Randy E. Barnett, A Consent Theory of Contract, 86 Colum. L. Rev. 269 (1986)

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Contracts Commons