I am, currently, party to at least a dozen contracts that I only partially understand. Employment, several credit cards, utilities, telephone, cable, lease, etc. Some of these I understand more than others, but I’m not a lawyer, and I didn’t get a lawyer’s advice before consenting, so I imagine that even the ones I think I understand, I don’t fully understand.
The worst of these are the cell phone and the credit card contracts, all of which contain clauses to the effect of “we can change this contract/our rates/your options as we see fit”. I am nervous about these clauses, but I agree to them anyway because I like having a phone and credit cards, and I know that, in the absolute worst case, I can go complain to my elected representatives and the media and something will be done.
For the purposes of this discussion, Libertopia is any society that is more fundamentally based on a libertarian philosophy than ours is, where the state still exists to address wrongs, but things like consumer protection laws and credit and telecommunications regulations are more limited to nonexistent. Since I’m interested in the trend of contract simplicity as government restrictions on private contracts are lifted, I don’t care much how libertarian the society is (unless you think that the trend would not be anatomically increasing or decreasing, in which case, say so).
My belief is that contracts would be less ambiguous, but no simpler. There would definitely be fewer clauses of the “we can do whatever we want” sort, since only crazy people would agree to such a thing if they knew they could really be held to it. However, I think that the driving force behind complicated contracts is that complicated contracts are very effective at extracting money from people who don’t or can’t think ahead very carefully, and powerful/wealthy interests can afford experts to craft complicated contracts in optimal ways, while unsophisticated individuals tend to accept the options that are readily available. Even really smart people are unlikely to beat actuarial tables and professional lawyers when it comes to planning a fee schedule, for example.