Incomprehensible!: A Study of How Our Legal System Encourages Incomprehensibility, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It (Chapters 1 and 3)

Cambridge University Press, 2019

32 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020

See all articles by Wendy E. Wagner

Wendy E. Wagner

University of Texas at Austin – School of Law

Will Walker

Harvard University - Divinity School

Date Written: August 27, 2019

Abstract

Drawing together evidence from work in administrative law, consumer contracts, financial disclosures, patents, chemical regulation, and legislative process, this book isolates a foundational flaw in the design of a number of legal processes. Each of these programs requires transparency and equal access to information, in large part because the regulated parties or other sophisticated actors are reluctant to share the “whole truth,” but at the same time, each of these programs is generally oblivious to the equally vital imperative of ensuring that this shared information is actually understandable and useful to the target audience. Instead, the burden for processing this information – no matter how vast, technical, or inscrutable – is regularly placed on audiences who are often less able to make sense of it. As a result of this loophole, some well-financed actors play information games to sidestep accountability and exploit target audiences who lack the resources and expertise needed to process the information being shared. Chapters 1 and 3 help lay the foundation for the book’s primary claims and for the legal applications and reform proposals that follow.

Keywords: Information Overload, Obfuscation, Incomprehensibility, Legal Design, Institutional Analysis, Regulation, Processing Costs, Communication, Incentives, Legal Reform, Asymmetric Information, Transparency

JEL Classification: K10, K22, K32, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Wendy E. and Walker, Will, Incomprehensible!: A Study of How Our Legal System Encourages Incomprehensibility, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It (Chapters 1 and 3) (August 27, 2019). Cambridge University Press, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3545644

Wendy E. Wagner (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin – School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

Will Walker

Harvard University - Divinity School

45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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