The Impact of Law: A View from North of the Border

By Kritzer, Herbert M. | Judicature, July/August 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Impact of Law: A View from North of the Border

Kritzer, Herbert M., Judicature

The impact of law: A view from north of the border Consequences: The Impact of Law and Its Complexity by W. A. Bogart. University of Toronto Press. 2002. 416 pages. $95. $29.95 (paper).

There are two ways to read W. A. Bogart's Cosequences: The Impact of Law and Its Complexity. First, Bogart himself sees the book as an argument that we need to recognize that we know relatively little about the results produced by law. Second, in his use of the United States to illustrate his concerns about what may be unrealistic expectations of what law can accomplish, it becomes a book on American exceptionalism in law. While there have been many recent works on American legal exceptionalism, almost all have been by Americans, often lamenting the depths to which the United States has fallen in its excessive reliance on law, lawyers, and litigation. The fact that Bogart is a Canadian (professor of law at the University of Windsor) has the benefit for American readers (if providing an analysis by an astute observer looking in rather than one of us who is swimming around in the fishbowl thinking how much better, or at least different, things might be on the other side of the glass.

In many ways, Bogart's own core argument in Consequences is neither complex nor surprising: we simply are not very good at predicting the consequences of law, and thus law may not be a particularly good vehicle for social engineering. This is not the same argument advanced by Gerald Rosenberg in his much-discussed Hollow Hope. For Bogart, the issue is not that courts fail to produce social change, but that we cannot predict when legal change, whether through courts or through legislatures, will successfully produce social change or when our efforts to accomplish social change through law will either make things worse or introduce unanticipated, undesirable side consequences.

Undoubtedly Bogart is correct on this central point. The problem is that the central point is too narrow, and this may undercut the central conclusion he seeks to convey: "Consequences urges more caution in turning to law as a solution to complex social, political, and economic, issues when we know so little about what effects law actually produces" (p. 4). Someone whose field is not law could just as easily have written a book with a slightly different title: Consequences: The Impact of Policy Change and Its Complexity. That is, law is simply one vehicle for effecting public policy, and all policy change produces uncertainty. Many policy changes fail to accomplish their intended goals. Some policy changes produce results that are the opposite of what was intended. And most policy changes produce at least some unanticipated consequences.

Of more importance to readers knowledgeable about the uncertainties of law and policy are Bogart's observations and analyses of law in the United States. He sees a focus on the U.S. as crucial because he believes that the "growth of legalization has occurred especially in the United States." Given the emphasis on the rule of law around the world, and the growth of "judicialization," a good argument could be made that legalization has grown more rapidly in other, perhaps many other, countries. Still, whether or not legalization has grown most rapidly in the United States, Bogart's emphasis on the U.S. is appropriate because "America, more than any other industrial nation, is the land of law" (pp. 5-6).

In opening the book, Bogart lays out a variety of pieces of evidence that law has grown rapidly over the second half of the twentieth century. The indicators he uses are familiar: growth in the number of pages in the Federal Register, in the size of statute books, in the number of published court cases, in the number of lawyers, and in law-generating bodies (i.e., regulatory agencies). The result, according to Bogart, is a "qualitative and quantitative shift in the way that [the United States, Canada, and England] are invoking law" (p.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Impact of Law: A View from North of the Border


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?