One thing I've noticed is that in countries with separation of power doctrines tend to have more vague laws. Could it be because the job of interpreting laws is of the judiciary? And that is why the laws are purposedly left vague?

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    Can you give examples? I don't think we will be able to find a broad comparison of all ~200 countries worldwide on all their laws.
    – nvoigt
    Jan 18, 2023 at 6:43
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    I don't believe that supposition is true.
    – Roland
    Jan 18, 2023 at 7:50
  • The U.S. pioneered separation of powers doctrines, and the constitution has a clause that makes it clear that any law that is vague is unconstitutional (void for vagueness). You might be misunderstanding separation of powers with Common Law which is the legal framework that many English speaking countries use which allows the laws written with less than specific language. For example, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act's effective language banning monopolies in the U.S. is about a page of text. What that single page means can fill books of judicial rulings.
    – hszmv
    Jan 18, 2023 at 13:36
  • @hszmv which clause of the constitution clearly invalidates vague laws? I doubt you'll find an explicit statement. Furthermore, not all vagueness renders a law unconstitutional; there are many vague laws, often intentionally vague, that are not unconstitutional.
    – phoog
    Jan 18, 2023 at 18:47
  • @phoog The Due Process Clauses of the 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court case Connally v. General Construction Co. (1926) which named the "Void for Vagueness" doctrine that had been established prior in U.S. Law and expanded it further. The idea was that an arbitrarily defined law could be used to enforce the law unequally based on the enforcer's definition. The 5th and 14th Amendments require equal enforcement of the law. Further, Common Law long holds that all laws should be interpreted to the defendant's interest and not the state's.
    – hszmv
    Jan 18, 2023 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


In countries with separation of powers, laws may be more vague in order to allow for flexibility and adaptability in their interpretation and application. This is because the judiciary, which is one of the branches of government with the power to interpret laws, plays a key role in determining the meaning and application of laws in practice.

The separation of powers doctrine aims to prevent any one branch of government from becoming too powerful by dividing power among different branches. The judiciary, as an independent branch, has the power to interpret laws and ensure that they are consistent with the Constitution and other laws. This means that the judiciary has a degree of discretion in interpreting laws, and laws may be written in a more general and flexible way to allow for this.

Additionally, laws in these countries are often written to be applicable to a wide range of situations and cases. This is because it is difficult to predict all of the different ways that a law may be applied, and to anticipate all of the specific circumstances that may arise. Therefore, laws are often written in a more general way so that they can be applied in a variety of situations.

In short, laws in countries with separation of power may be more vague because they are written to allow for flexibility and adaptability in their interpretation and application, and to be applicable in a wide range of situations.

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    On the other hand, laws in dictatorships don't need to mean anything at all. The judges will anyway do what the dictator is telling them to, whether the accused actually broke the law or not.
    – PMF
    Jan 18, 2023 at 9:20
  • What you are talking about seems more like the rule in a common law system vs a civil law system, however, both types have separation of powers.
    – Dale M
    Jan 18, 2023 at 12:49
  • "The judiciary [...] has the power to interpret laws and ensure that they are consistent with the Constitution " - this is far from universal. The Netherlands specifically bans the judiciary from doing so (Art 120 constitution).
    – MSalters
    Jan 18, 2023 at 22:02

In places without fused parliamentary systems, multiple bodies that aren't necessarily controlled by one political party or one political coalition all have to agree to adopt a law. This makes reaching consensus on fine details of laws difficult.

For example, for most national laws in the U.S., one needs a majority of the U.S. House (currently controlled by Republicans), a 60% majority in the U.S. Senate (where the Democratic party majority has 52 Senators, three of whom are independents who often vote with it, out of 100), and a Democratic President who can veto legislation approved by both houses of Congress (which can only be overcome by a two-thirds majority of the House and a two-thirds majority of the Senate). Also, separation of powers between the executive branch and the legislative branch tends to undermine party discipline in votes on legislation.

One way that this gets dealt with in order to get the required broad agreement on legislation is to adopt a vague law and for the backers of the law to gamble that the way that the court's resolve the ambiguities will be acceptable.

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