Using Complexity to Calibrate Legal Response to COVID-19

Frontiers in Physics (2021, Forthcoming)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Legal Research Paper No. 21-5

21 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2021 Last revised: 15 Mar 2021

See all articles by Ofer Malcai

Ofer Malcai

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law

Michal Shur-Ofry

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 10, 2021

Abstract

The global effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the adoption of unusual legal measures that restrict individual freedoms and raise acute legal questions. Yet, the conventional legal tools available to analyze those questions—including legal notions such as proportionality, equality, or the requisite levels of evidence—implicitly presume stable equilibria, and fail to capture the nonlinear properties of the pandemic. Because the pandemic diffuses in a complex system, using complexity theory can help align the law with its dynamics and produce a more effective legal response. We demonstrate how insights from complexity concerning temporal and spatial diffusion patterns, or the structure of the social network, can provide counter-intuitive answers to a series of pandemic-related legal questions pertaining to limitations of movement, privacy, business and religious freedoms, or prioritizing access to vaccines. This analysis could further inform legal policies aspiring to handle additional phenomena that diffuse in accordance with the principles of complexity.

Keywords: complexity, law, COVID-19, diffusion patterns, exponential, fractal, spatiotemporal diffusion, networks, proportionality, equality, evidence, privacy

Suggested Citation

Malcai, Ofer and Shur-Ofry, Michal, Using Complexity to Calibrate Legal Response to COVID-19 (January 10, 2021). Frontiers in Physics (2021, Forthcoming), Hebrew University of Jerusalem Legal Research Paper No. 21-5, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3763376 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3763376

Ofer Malcai

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus, IL 91905
Israel

Michal Shur-Ofry (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus, IL 91905
Israel

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