The rule of law versus the rule of rank

"I thought individual rights were natural rights," said Ben.
"That's the sort of fiction we call myth," said Hortense. "Useful symbolically. But as a practical matter, society confers or withholds rights. The medieval European Custom of Merchants let the genie of individual rights out of the bottleor opened the Pandora's box of their nuisances and evils, as people who deplore individual rights would have it.
"The contractual law we inherited from those medieval merchants contained radical conceptions. Not only did it apply alike to all individuals, no matter who they were or what their social status might be, but it was available to individuals for no other reason than that they were individuals, making contracts. That second notion is so inseparable from our contractual law that we even have the fiction that a corporation is a person. That's so corporations, like individuals, can make contracts and carry on commercial life under protection of civil law. To realize how radical the Custom of Merchants was, we only need to think about some of the battles to extend the jurisdiction of contractual law.
"For instance, slaves lack rights as individuals. After slaves in the United States were freed, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution theoretically gave them access to all the rights of individuals available under contractual law. But by custom, hierarchical law, the rule of rank, still prevailed, so freedmen and their descendants seldom enjoyed the benefits of contractual law. Every time a black homeowner was driven from his legally purchased home in a white neighborhood he was being treated as if hierarchical law, derived from social status, prevailed. Every time effective barriers were thrown up against black-owned businesses, and they were, more often than not, or against employment of qualified blacks, or they were excluded from labor unions and apprenticeships controlled by unions, it was as if contractual law did not exist for African Americans. As someone has said, even buying a loaf of bread is a contract. So is being served a meal in a restaurant. A bus ticket is a contract, but if you have to stand instead of sit because of your color, that's the rule of rank, not contract. So many of what we call civil rights are actually rights to make contracts as equals." 
Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992).


Public schools, public choice

No one can know the preferences or values of other persons apart from giving those persons an opportunity to express their preferences or values. If constituencies and collectivities are organized in a way that does not reflect the diversity of interests among different groups of people, then producers of public goods and services will be taking action without information as to the changing preferences of the persons they serve. Expenditures may be made with little reference to consumer utility. Producer efficiency in the absence of consumer utility is without meaning. Large per capita expenditures for educational services which are not conceived by the recipients to enhance their life prospects may be grossly unproductive. Education can be a sound investment in human development only when individuals perceive the effort as enhancing their life prospects.
Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom, "Public Choice: A Different Approach to the Study of Public Administratration," Public Administration Review, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 1971), 203-216.


A.O. Hirschman on arguments against fixing failure

According to the perversity thesis, any purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order only serves to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy. The futility thesis holds that attempts at social transformation will be unavailing, that they will simply fail to "make a dent." Finally, the jeopardy thesis argues that the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high as it endangers some previous, precious accomplishment.
Albert O. Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction (1991).