Overview Link to heading

In December 2023 I created a rough list of the top 10 most structurally complex German federal laws and posted them to social media. The diagrams were drawn from the Corpus des Deutschen Bundesrechts (C-DBR). For this article I’ve written down the list and collected all diagrams into ordered collages.

The original diagrams are available as high-resolution vector graphics from this link: Fobbe, S. (2023). Corpus des Deutschen Bundesrechts (C-DBR) (2023-10-03) [Data set]. Zenodo.

All diagrams are in the public domain and can be used for any and all purposes. Especially for research and teaching!

Want to create better diagrams than I did? I wrote a tutorial for RECHTS|EMPIRE (in German only) on how to do this: Juristische Netzwerkdaten für Einsteiger:innen. Although to be fair, you only need to grab the GraphML files from the data set, import them into Gephi and off you go.

Structural Complexity of German Federal Laws Link to heading

What is the structural complexity of a law? Before I say anything, let me mention that my colleague Dr. Corinna Coupette is the true authority in this field and anyone who is interested in this line of research should check the list of publications on her personal website. Most of her papers are in English, although her main book on legal network analysis is available only in German: Juristische Netzwerkforschung — Modellierung, Quantifizierung und Visualisierung relationaler Daten im Recht (Mohr Siebeck 2019)

My definition of complexity for this list was a lot more relaxed: I listed all PDF files of the dendograms (headings only, that is, excluding individual norms) of all German federal laws in order of their file sizes. The PDF diagrams are vector graphics and their file size increases with the number of nodes and edges, but also the longer the labels are. For a first approximation this turned out to be a surprisingly good heuristic.1

The Top 10 Most Structurally Complex German Federal Laws Link to heading

The list is led by civil law, in particular the Civil Code and the Commercial Code, following by three books of social law. Positions 5 through 10 are held by laws from different subject areas, but civil law is again notably strong. I give rough translations in [brackets], followed by the original German names below.

  1. [Civil Code] — Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)
  2. [Commercial Code] — Handelsgesetzbuch (HGB)
  3. [Sixth Social Code] — Sechstes Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB-VI)
  4. [Fifth Social Code] — Fünftes Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB-V)
  5. [Third Social Code] — Drittes Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB-III)
  6. [Civil Procedure Code] — Zivilprozesordnung (ZPO)
  7. [Tax Code] — Abgabenordnung (AO)
  8. [Corporate Transformation Law]2 — Umwandlungsgesetz (UmwG)
  9. [Capital Investment Code] — Kapitalanlagegesetzbuch (KAGB)
  10. [Farmer Insurance Law] — Gesetz über die Alterssicherung der Landwirte (ALG)

Ordered Collages of all Diagrams Link to heading

The collages are ordered from top left to bottom right. Top 1 and top 2 are the top left and top right, respectively. Then top 3 and top 4 are second row left and right. And so on.

Dendrograms Link to heading

Sunburst Link to heading

Circlepacking Link to heading

  1. This is fine for social media, but you probabily will never make peer review with this ;-) ↩︎

  2. This refers to the transformation of corporate entities into different corporate entities. ↩︎