The Social Cost of Blackmail
AbstractDespite the fact that blackmail constitutes a voluntary transaction between two parties, it is deemed to be a criminal offense in most legal systems. The traditional economic approach to this so-called 'paradox of blackmail’ emphasizes welfare loss generated by the costly rent-seeking activities of potential blackmailers as the primary justification for its criminalization. This argument, however, does not extend to cases in which potentially damaging information about the victim was acquired by the blackmailer at no cost. It also does not seem to shed light on a related puzzle: why is it legal for a potential victim to bribe the other party with the purpose of achieving the same final outcome (suppression of information) as in the case of blackmail? This paper addresses these questions in a simple model of bargaining under asymmetric information, which is used as a unified framework for studying both blackmail and bribery. Under asymmetric information the bargaining outcome is not efficient, regardless of the distribution of the bargaining power. However, when the blackmailer is a monopolist seller of the information, inefficiency results from his demands being too high relative to the social optimum, providing justification for the practice of penalizing blackmail. On the other hand, when a victim is the monopolist buyer of the information, the equilibrium offer is inefficiently low, implying that its punishment would be counterproductive. These arguments provide further support for the claim that under reasonable assumptions the criminalization of blackmail can be justified on efficiency grounds.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by De Gruyter in its journal Review of Law & Economics.
Volume (Year): 7 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (December)
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Web page: http://www.degruyter.com
Other versions of this item:
- D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
- K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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