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Randomizing Law

65 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2010 Last revised: 27 Sep 2010

Michael Abramowicz

George Washington University Law School

Ian Ayres

Yale University - Yale Law School; Yale University - Yale School of Management

Yair Listokin

Yale Law School

Date Written: September 4, 2010

Abstract

Governments should embrace randomized trials to estimate the efficacy of different laws and regulations. Just as random assignment of treatments is the most powerful method of testing for the causal impact of pharmaceuticals, randomly assigning individuals or firms to different legal rules can help resolve uncertainty about the consequential impacts of law. We explain why randomized testing is likely to produce better information than nonrandom evaluation of legal policies and offer guidelines for conducting legal experimentation successfully, considering a variety of obstacles, including ethical ones. Randomization will not be useful for all policies, but once government gains better experience with randomization, administrative agencies should presumptively issue randomization impact statements justifying decisions to implement particular policies. Making the content of law partially contingent on the results of randomized trials will promote ex ante bipartisan agreements, as politicians with different empirical predictions will tend to think that the experiments will support their position.

Keywords: Random, Control, Experiment

Suggested Citation

Abramowicz, Michael and Ayres, Ian and Listokin, Yair, Randomizing Law (September 4, 2010). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Forthcoming; Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 411. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1672057

Michael B. Abramowicz (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Ian Ayres

Yale University - Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-7101 (Phone)
203-432-2592 (Fax)

Yale University - Yale School of Management

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Yair Listokin

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-436-2567 (Phone)

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