Code and Law

by chromatic

Luis Villa is a hacker turned law student. His Things I've Learned in Law School, part 1 has an interesting metaphor, comparing making and revising the law to programming. Apart from the fact that people are even less predictable than electrons flowing through gates, I've long thought such a metaphor was appropriate.

Perhaps by understanding the law as we understand programming and treating bad laws as refactoring opportunities, hackers can help refine the law into something clearer, more accurate, and more effective.


2006-09-06 15:27:03
It is worth noting (and I plan to note in the blog at some point) that there is a constant refactoring of the law codes going on through common law processes- most particularly the restatements, which are just what they sound like- a hundred or so years of court rulings, distilled and restated so that all states can use them as common law.* Turns out that just like code, refactoring is done at least sometimes and typically liked in the abstract- and inconsistently used in practice :) I do think there is some space for increased conscious engineering practices in law-making, though, and I hope to explore those in the blog over the next three years. Thanks for the link!

* There is also the Uniform Commercial Code, whose last refactoring/re-commonizing (think of it as taking cut and paste code and putting it into a library) was hijacked by commercial interests, leading to the UCITA fiasco of a couple years back.