"Common law" describes the body of legal principles and concepts that were evolved over many centuries by judges in the English courts of law. These principles include such values as honesty, the pursuit of truth, responsibility, keeping promises, fairness in interpersonal relations, concern for one's immediate neighbours, respect for property, loyalty and duty to one's spouse and children and the work ethic and keeping one's word. The emphasis is on the duty and responsibility of the individual, without which no civilisation can endure.
The common law in the theory and practice of Anglo-American democracies in the pre-interventionist law reform era were underpinned by a number of factors:
The supremacy of law, which means that all persons (individuals and governments) are subject to the law;
A conception of justice that emphasises interpersonal adjudication, law based on fault and the importance of procedures;
Concern for individual rights and liberties and the permissible restraints on such rights and liberties;
Judicial balancing of competing interests;
Concern about conferral of wide discretionary powers by statute and the manner of the exercise of such discretions;
Legislation should be prospective, not retrospective;
The doctrine of precedent;
An independent judiciary;
The common law judges accepted the exercise by Parliament of legislative power, but were suspicious of the exercise of legislative power by the executive.
The common law is based on morality.
Limitations of space lead to a brief focus on some of the above aspects.