The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is a controversial piece of legislation in the UK at the moment, considered poorly-written and authoritarian by its detractors. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 was apparently also considered rushed and ill-thought-out when it came about, and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991* is generally held up as the gold standard of poor legislation in the UK. "It is still referred to today as a classic example of what not to do", according to the Guardian.

But what qualities make a good, well-thought-out piece of legislation? And what are commonly held up as the yins to the Dangerous Dogs Act's yang?

Answers don't necessarily have to be about the UK, but that's the perspective that I'm asking from.

* The Act requires muzzling dogs of certain "types" in public, where the types are based loosely on specific breeds. However, whether a dog fits into a particular type depends on a court's appraisal of its characteristics.

2 Answers 2


Constitutionality is the touchstone (in constitutional regimes) for determining whether a law is "good" or "bad." In one sense, it seems too obvious an answer to the constitutional-jurisdiction version of this question, but in another it's important to trace out a pretty clear legal standard for good and bad in this context. A second answer revolves around best practices for drafting (that aim to decrease ambiguity). Anne Peters outlines several of them here.

That said, your question seemed more policy oriented. Gene Howington has an interesting post arguing for a cost-versus-benefits approach on the premise that good laws serve the majority of society. His line of reasoning is generally opposed by those who criticize utilitarianism.


I dont have a good understanding of what exactly makes good legislation. But one of my professors did tell me what his favorite piece of legislation was: the Law of Property act 1925.

He said it was "beautiful" and very well thought out. The provisions covered almost every reasonable situation and was robust in operation, offering very little room for improvement.

The stuggle for common law jurisdictions, is to produce law that is both flexible to the needs of amy given situation, but also predictable, to add certainty to business dealings and their rights/obligations.

So i suppose a good piece of law would strike a strong balance between these two criteria

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