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Measuring the complexity of the law: the United States Code

Measuring the complexity of the law: the United States Code Einstein’s razor, a corollary of Ockham’s razor, is often paraphrased as follows: make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. This rule of thumb describes the challenge that designers of a legal system face—to craft simple laws that produce desired ends, but not to pursue simplicity so far as to undermine those ends. Complexity, simplicity’s inverse, taxes cognition and increases the likelihood of suboptimal decisions. In addition, unnecessary legal complexity can drive a misallocation of human capital toward comprehending and complying with legal rules and away from other productive ends. While many scholars have offered descriptive accounts or theoretical models of legal complexity, most empirical research to date has been limited to simple measures of size, such as the number of pages in a bill. No extant research rigorously applies a meaningful model to real data. As a consequence, we have no reliable means to determine whether a new bill, regulation, order, or precedent substantially effects legal complexity. In this paper, we begin to address this need by developing a proposed empirical framework for measuring relative legal complexity. This framework is based on “knowledge acquisition”, an approach at the intersection of psychology and computer science, which can take into account the structure, language, and interdependence of law. We then demonstrate the descriptive value of this framework by applying it to the U.S. Code’s Titles, scoring and ranking them by their relative complexity. We measure various features of a title including its structural size, the net flow of its intra-title citations and its linguistic entropy. Our framework is flexible, intuitive, and transparent, and we offer this approach as a first step in developing a practical methodology for assessing legal complexity. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Artificial Intelligence and Law Springer Journals

Measuring the complexity of the law: the United States Code

Artificial Intelligence and Law , Volume 22 (4) – Sep 16, 2014

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Subject
Computer Science; Artificial Intelligence (incl. Robotics); International IT and Media Law, Intellectual Property Law; Philosophy of Law; Legal Aspects of Computing; Information Storage and Retrieval
ISSN
0924-8463
eISSN
1572-8382
DOI
10.1007/s10506-014-9160-8
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Einstein’s razor, a corollary of Ockham’s razor, is often paraphrased as follows: make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. This rule of thumb describes the challenge that designers of a legal system face—to craft simple laws that produce desired ends, but not to pursue simplicity so far as to undermine those ends. Complexity, simplicity’s inverse, taxes cognition and increases the likelihood of suboptimal decisions. In addition, unnecessary legal complexity can drive a misallocation of human capital toward comprehending and complying with legal rules and away from other productive ends. While many scholars have offered descriptive accounts or theoretical models of legal complexity, most empirical research to date has been limited to simple measures of size, such as the number of pages in a bill. No extant research rigorously applies a meaningful model to real data. As a consequence, we have no reliable means to determine whether a new bill, regulation, order, or precedent substantially effects legal complexity. In this paper, we begin to address this need by developing a proposed empirical framework for measuring relative legal complexity. This framework is based on “knowledge acquisition”, an approach at the intersection of psychology and computer science, which can take into account the structure, language, and interdependence of law. We then demonstrate the descriptive value of this framework by applying it to the U.S. Code’s Titles, scoring and ranking them by their relative complexity. We measure various features of a title including its structural size, the net flow of its intra-title citations and its linguistic entropy. Our framework is flexible, intuitive, and transparent, and we offer this approach as a first step in developing a practical methodology for assessing legal complexity.

Journal

Artificial Intelligence and LawSpringer Journals

Published: Sep 16, 2014

References