Politician are often demagogic. They can say things without citing sources, statistics, etc.

The laws are created to fulfill some purpose but this purposes are not defined in a formal language.

The following image orders the sciences from the most approximative to the most precise. Politics as we know it would be on the very left of this image.

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I'm wondering it someone has theorized any system where laws should be written with formal languages, with explicit purpose, based on verifiable experiment / statistics. Or even only having references to psychological issues.

I'll try to make an example of what I mean by psychological issue.

People can be arrested and putted into jail. Why? For how many years? Which is the objective for doing this? This method is working? Which technical paper (see google scholar) refers about the results achieved in psychological experiments in rehabilitation of people? What consideration about the costs? What consideration about the duration of the punishment? What statistic on effectiveness? What psychological analysis about all this process?


4 Answers 4


What you are describing is done under the name "evidence-based policy" which grounds on broad efforts to evaluate policies in the fields of economics, political science, and related disciplines. Especially economics has a very old and strong tradition in prescribing certain policies ("normative" economics) or evaluating policies that have been implemented ("positive" economics). The most credible empirical work on evaluation is probably being done in labor economics and in education economics. The Wikipedia articles on Program Evaluation and Impact evaluation are pretty exhaustive.

For a concrete example, I once heard that in the USA, in order to get federal money for education policies, states needed to do an experimental evaluation of the policy they wish to implemented, but I have not found a verifiable source yet.

When it comes to what politicians claim on a daily basis, there are initiative like Factcheck and Politifact that try to assess what is wrong and what is right.

  • The second site is really well done. I was also watching a video on Youtube which is denouncing a lot of really sad politics artifact.. I hope a lot of web site like the two presented here will change our future..
    – Revious
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 17:33
  • I added this answer about a concrete example of an evidence-based policy approach.
    – James P.
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:43

Yes. The political system is known as a technocracy.

The term technocracy was originally used to designate the application of the scientific method to solving social problems, in counter distinction to the traditional economic, political, or philosophic approaches

It is also often referred to as a "scientific dictatorship" by detractors. It is a meritocracy instead of a democratic form of government. Government leaders are chosen for their skill sets to perform the needed scientific analysis, rather than by free election.

  • 1
    The last paragraph doesn't work: who choses them? If "some metrics", then who decides which metrics to use?
    – o0'.
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 11:45
  • 1
    @Lohoris They choose each other. Unless we allow for science fiction here, and then they are chosen by genetic engineering and by Ford...joke, joke... Its hard to imagine by a society can always decide to give up on democracy. Some people argue modern societies are increasingly less democratic and more technocratic all the time due to the speed of technological change. We all have to depend on expert opinions and it hurts our ability to be really involved in most things our government is doing.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 18:24
  • @RazieMah which is where the idea of a Hired Representative Democracy would be handy.
    – James P.
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 20:45

The law requires a different kind of approach than what we call "science". There are a number of reasons, but the most important ones are that:

  • legal rules project into the future, and are purpose based (they aim to achieve a goal)
  • legal rules try to make the correct abstractions that will cover the appropriate scenarios in the future in order to get to that purpose
  • legal rules have a profoundly different feedback loop system than "scientific" laws. You are allowed to break legal rules (e.g. your car does not actually have a speed limit - the law has one; and the ability to break it makes it a "legal" rule, rather than e.g. a software algorithm), and that ability to break them is a fundamental feature, not a bug. Challenging laws in the courts is part of the essence of a rule of law based system of laws. this is related to the fundamental inability to know the future, and know if all scenario's are properly covered.

Finally, the law also aims to achieve or enhance "justice". This is a general principle, that will be defined different by everyone.

As with many aspects of the legal system, it is contextual - and the contextual nature is fundamental, not just "in addition".

As the context changes, so does the law.

So, is it possible to do evidence based legislation? No, not for the future. And it makes no sense to legislate for the past.


To add to Julian Schuessler's answer, evidence-based policy and an agile approach are being explored by Finland to test out various ideas including that of a basic income.

Instead of speculating on the impact of proposed policies such as basic income and environmental taxes Finland will now experiment, measure and scale

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