Quantifying Legal Entropy
Posted: 13 Jul 2013
Date Written: May 22, 2013
Many scholars have employed the term “entropy” in the context of law and legal systems to roughly refer to amount of “uncertainty” present in a given law, doctrine, or legal system. Just a few of these scholars have attempted to formulate a quantitative definition of legal entropy, and none have provided a precise formula useable across a variety of legal contexts. Here, I provide such a formula, relying upon Claude Shannon’s definition of entropy in the context of information theory. In addition to offering a precise quantification of uncertainty in the law, the approach offered here provides other benefits. For example, it offers a more comprehensive account of the uses and limits of “modularity” in the law — namely, using the terminology of Henry Smith, the use of legal “boundaries” (be they spatial or intangible) that “economize on information costs” by “hiding” classes of information “behind” those boundaries. The notion of legal entropy is explored in a variety of legal fields, including intellectual property, real property, and corporate law.
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