Jan Smits, ‘Do Small Jurisdictions Have a More Complex Law? A Numerical Experiment in Constitutional and Private Law’

Abstract:
It is commonly assumed that the size of a country’s population has nothing to do with the structure of the law. The law of larger jurisdictions is supposedly just as simple or complex as the law of smaller jurisdictions. However, this hypothesis has never been empirically tested. This is surprising in view of the fact that a thriving field of research in linguistics deals with the relationship between language complexity and the size of the speech community. This research shows that grammatical complexity correlates negatively with the size of the speech community: the bigger the community, the simpler the grammar. The aim of this paper, an experiment in numerical comparative law, is to investigate whether the same is true for the law. The question that it seeks to answer is whether smaller jurisdictions have a more complex law than bigger jurisdictions and, if so, how this could be explained. The material is drawn from both constitutional law and private law.

Smits, Jan M, Do Small Jurisdictions Have a More Complex Law? A Numerical Experiment in Constitutional and Private Law (May 28, 2015). Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No 2015/05.

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