“Information hypocrisy” in law

Futurist Robin Hanson has written up another astute blog post on the subject of information hypocrisy. By way of example, Hanson points out the existence of such hypocrisy in law:

We say court proceedings are to get information to decide guilt, but then rules of evidence cut out [relevant] information.

From our perspective, the rules of hearsay and the attorney-client privilege, just to name a couple of obvious examples, quickly come to mind. In his blog post, Hanson makes a larger point about the ubiquity of information hypocrisy in general. He also writes:

When we endorse a policy, we often point out how it may tend to encourage information to be generated, spread, or aggregated. After all, who could be against more information? But the details of the policies we endorse often belie that appearance, as we pick details that reduce and discourage information. Because we have other agendas.

In the case of law (our main academic domain), what are these “other agendas” that could possibly justify the exclusion of relevant evidence from juries? Of course, more information is not always better. But, then, how do we decide what the optimal amount of information disclosure is? Furthermore, while we are on this subject, what’s wrong with a little hypocrisy now and then? Like other economic “bads” such as pollution, noise, etc., couldn’t we argue that there is an optimal amount of hypocrisy, especially in social settings? (Hat Tip: Tyler Cowen, Master of the Internet.)

What’s the optimal level?

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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