How to Measure the Rule of Law


  • Stefan Voigt

    1. Institute of Law & Economics, Hamburg, Germany
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    • The author thanks Matthias Dauner, Nora El-Bialy, Aleksandra Gauss, Moamen Gouda, Jerg Gutmann, Sang-Min Park and Kim Eun Young as well as the participants of the workshop on “The Rule of Law, Economic Performance and Institutional Comparative Advantage” in Orvieto, December 2008 for support and suggestions. As always, Anne van Aaken contributed both critical comments as well as constructive suggestions.


I argue that the rule of law consists of many dimensions and that much information is lost when variables proxying for these dimensions are simply aggregated. I draw on the most important innovations from various legal traditions to propose a concept of the rule of law likely to find general support. To make the concept measurable, an ideal approach is contrasted with a pragmatic one. The pragmatic approach consists of eight different dimensions. I show that the bivariate correlations between them are usually very low, evidence that more fine-grained indicators of the rule of law, rather than a single hard-to-interpret one, are necessary for its measurement. The paper presents a list of desirable variables that could improve the measurement of various aspects of the rule of law.