Uncertainty of Law and the Legal Process
University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for Law and Economics (ACLE); Tinbergen Institute
Université Paris 2 Panthéon Assas
Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, Vol. 163, No. 4, pp. 627-656, December 2007
George Mason University Law & Economics Research Paper No. 05-39
Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2005-10
There is extensive literature on whether courts or legislators produce efficient rules, but which of them produces rules efficiently? Is there an optimal mix of litigation and legislation? The law is inevitably subject to a certain degree of uncertainty ex ante; uncertainty makes the outcomes of trials difficult to predict and, hence, prevents parties from settling disputes out of court. Conversely, the law is necessarily certain ex post: litigation fosters the creation of precedents that reduce uncertainty. We postulate that there is a natural balance between the degree of uncertainty of a legal system (kept under control by litigation) and its litigation rate (sustained by uncertainty). We describe such equilibrium rates of litigation and uncertainty in a formal model, study how they are affected by two different policies - litigation fees/subsidies and legislation - and compare the costs and benefits of the legislative and the judicial process of lawmaking. We then extend the analysis to explore the implications of this approach.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44
Keywords: incompleteness of law, complexity of law, litigation, judge-made law, legislation
JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 14, 2005 ; Last revised: April 1, 2011
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