When I was a teen, during our war in Viet Nam, there was a lot of talk, in America, about how Americans “are.”  There is inherently a lot of compaction and conflation in any such discussion, but a part that bewildered me was the failure to try to prize out what parts were statements about humans, humans in groups, humans in nations, nations of more or less strangers, English speakers, Americans.  What part was “American” about Americans.  That itch was part of what made me try living in other places.

Back to the subject:

A/B testing in running software or a business that depends on software is the process of randomly dishing out a slightly different page to two (or maybe /C three) groups, to see if A works better than B (for the site).  If you have high volumes, you can suss out rather fine issues of usability, value proposition, and the like.

In discussions of law, we have a major A/B problem.  In America, other places are far, physically and mentally.  This is strikingly so in law.  Though we trace our law back to England, we are unique.  Our federal structure, scope of jury, scope of discovery, political appointment of judges, and other features make our generis very sui.  Our politics make us reluctant to make some comparisons.

A/B can be done on some issues as among states or as before and after certain changes.  But the relatively narrow range of most changes means that faint signal is buried in big noise of place, time, and other circumstances.

By living (and therefore at least partly learning) other legal systems, we can jack up the signal.  So even if the noise is higher and more varied, you can begin to piece out what might be American about America’s legal system.  For the signal to point towards possible improvements, it is helpful to compare high-functioning systems.

Terrific conversation last night with Greg Behan reminds me that some people don’t need a B to figure out what A ought to be, their B is internal.