On the Optimal Specificity of Legal Rules

25 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2004

See all articles by Vincy Fon

Vincy Fon

George Washington University - Department of Economics

Francesco Parisi

University of Minnesota - Law School; University of Bologna


European lawmakers are undertaking important steps towards the harmonization, unification, and possible codification of some areas of European private law. In doing so they can choose to craft laws with different levels of detail to guide judges in their decision-making process, incorporating rules or standards into the laws they write. The optimal degree of specificity of legal rules under different environmental conditions and the functionality of these rules or standards are the subject of the present study. First, a basic model of optimal specificity of laws is presented, clarifying the relevance of legal obsolescence and volume of litigation in the optimal choice. We further consider the important influence of codification style, judges' specialization, and complexity of reality on the optimal choice of legislative instrument. The results shed some light on the historical patterns of legislation in various areas of the law, and provide some policy recommendations for the ongoing process of codification in the European context.

Keywords: Rules, Standards, Legislation, Codifications, Optimal Specificity of Laws

JEL Classification: L51, K00, K20, H43

Suggested Citation

Fon, Vincy and Parisi, Francesco, On the Optimal Specificity of Legal Rules. Journal of Institutional Economics, 2007, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 04-32, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=569401 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.569401

Vincy Fon (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Economics ( email )

2115 G Street, N.W.
Monroe Hall, #366
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-7580 (Phone)
202-994-6147 (Fax)

Francesco Parisi

University of Minnesota - Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 1
40126 Bologna, fc 47100

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics