What Variables Define a Legal System?

One issue that I just briefly mentioned in my last post is the choice of variables that help classify legal systems. In statistics, a variable is a measurable attribute for a sub-category of an entity. Variables should be intrinsically different from each other. Together, all variables should constitute a comprehensive representation of the entity as a whole.

When starting a quantitative study in comparative law, the first step is to determine the entity. It may be legal systems as a whole (see Siems) or commercial laws (see La Porta). The next step is then to choose the variables that will constitute the data set. Here the challenge is to find an array of significant variables while keeping the number of variables manageable. Ideally, these variables should be either categorical or ordinal.

So now comes the challenge: In order to create a comprehensive statistical representation of the legal systems of the world, what variables should one choose? Or, put in other words, what variables define a legal system? Subsequently, you will find a list of variables that I find relevant. This is a work in progress and I would be delighted if some of my readers contributed as well.

(Evolving) List of Variables Defining a Legal System

  • Codes as primary legal source
  • English official language
  • Islam state religion
  • Death penalty
  • Constitutional court
  • Strict distinction between private, public (and criminal) law courts
  • Monist system (no incorporation of international law necessary)
  • EU member
  • NAFTA member
  • WTO member
  • ICC member
  • NATO member

Please feel free to suggest further variables in the comments. Thanks!


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Language – What are Variables?

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