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November 8, 2007

World Justice Project

I spent yesterday at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago at a meeting of scholars involved in the World Justice Project [see for more information]. The Project is a new initiative of the ABA to promote the Rule of Law and, among other activities, is seeking to create a new rule of law index.  Kevin Davis and Michael Kruse have just bashed this type of effort and in the presentation made my scholars developing the index, it is clear that they are aware of many of the methodological pitfalls.

Certainly one is right to be cautious about indices from a scholarly perspective. Even if an index is the best possible, it is still possible that a bad index will be used uncritically by scholars and generate all kinds of misleading results.  The LLSV stuff has this quality--it is regularly used in the finance literature but doesn't capture the relevant legal variables well.

On the other hand, I wonder if such indices might be good in the real world.  If the index generally captures good things (like democracy and social welfare) that have nothing to do with the rule of law, scholars shouldn't use it.  But countries that seek to move up in the rankings, ala Veronica's "Law Reform Olympics," may still undertake beneficial reforms.  The widely used corruption index of Transparency International has certainly led countries to pay attention to the issue and try to improve their brand.  So long as we think the reforms are in the right direction, the world may be better off even with an index doesn't capture relevant legal variables.  Scholarship, on the other hand, may suffer...


November 8, 2007 | Permalink


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