Model or Muddle? Quantitative Modeling and the Façade of 'Modernization' in Law
56 Washburn Law Journal 1-34 (2017)
34 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2019 Last revised: 3 Jun 2021
Date Written: January 1, 2017
Once considered fairly exotic, the appearance of mathematical formulae in legal cases and scholarly literature has now become relatively commonplace. One would not have predicted this development from the phenomenon's humble beginnings. The earliest attempts at quantification were nothing more than simple calls to compile more accurate statistics. Such efforts led the Harvard Law Review in 1930 to quote with apparent approval a book editor, who lamented the “absence of current criminal statistics” and argued that “[t]he time is rapidly approaching ... when ... every specialist in educational research must at the same time be a statistician.”
Legal academics have since moved beyond arguing for the collection of more accurate quantitative data, calling for such things as more sophisticated uses of statistical methods, the use of statistical methods to determine causation in torts, and the use of quantitative models to assess future risk. In a discipline that was once shaped more by “methods of philosophy” than by the quantitative sciences, terms such as “the null hypothesis” and “statistically significant” have become familiar terms of art. But it is not only statistical methods that have been urged upon American lawyers; approaches based on economics and game theory have also been proposed. We examine the proposed applications of all three of these types of quantitative reasoning to law.
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