All court cases are concerned to determine who did what to whom, when, and why, sometimes with a signature or a tap of a key, sometimes with a four inch blade. In essence this is the determination of empirical fact, and only as a secondary matter is there the question of whether these determined facts constitute a breach of the law.

Now reflect on the cost of such an investigation. Historians concerned with larger phenomena struggle to determine the facts even in areas where there are detailed records, such as cabinet papers or written orders or national accounts. Granted, that the discussion of cause and effect in such large scale instances is troubled by vague ontological specification; 'What were the causes of the First World War?' or 'Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in England?' or 'Was there an Industrial Revolution?' But in a sense these pale into insignificance beside the difficulty of finding out who was holding the knife, who signed the will, or whether the outstretched arm was an act of defence or aggression. Frequently enough, there were almost no witnesses beside the main parties, and the facts must be determined by inference from a miscellany of assertions, by interested parties, objects, circumstantially related, it is claimed, to the event under question, and the conclusions of experts brought in to assess the evidence, the blood on the carpet, the hair on the stair, the ink in the pen.

It is remarkable that the population is willing to support the cost of this activity, which nothing less than forensic history of an infeasibly detailed kind. Why do we do this? Ostensibly because justice must be done, but this cannot be the case for we none of us care about this in the majority of specific instances, perhaps not at all, and our interest in the abstract principle of justice appears to have no other content than our own self-interest; that is to say we are willing to pay for this staggeringly expensive determination of ephemeral facts in the cases of others because we wish for that facility to be available to us in the future. In other words we fear that a) we might be the victim of crime,and that b) we might be disadvantaged by injustice.

Thus, the reduction of cost in administration of public justice must start by reducing the apparent probability that an individual may require extremely scrupulous prosecution and investigation. This is not quite the same as reducing the incidence of crime, though that will help, since the public probably over-estimates the probability of a crime against which the system of public justice can protect them. In other words, it is necessary to show the public that the system cannot protect them against most infringements, and that these will go uninvestigated because the trail was never warm and is now stone cold. This in turn will reassure them with regard to the second fear, that they will be unjustly prosecuted. If the probability of the guilty coming to justice is low, then it is still more unlikely that the innocent will be mistakenly convicted. As this realism dawns, then the public will become increasing reluctant to pay for the courts to engage in a micro-history of no intrinsic interest except to the parties involved, and notable to the rest of the population only for its astonishing expense.