The Scope of Punishment: An Economic Theory of Harm-Based vs. Act-Based Sanctions
AbstractThe harm caused by many acts is not certain but probabilistic. Current public enforcement of the law combines harm-based sanctions (usually in criminal law) with act-based sanctions (very common in administrative law and regulation). We propose an economic theory of the choice between harm-based and act-based sanctions in public enforcement. The efficiency of act-based versus harm-based sanctions is analyzed and a typology of the determinants is drawn up. In the simple model with risk neutral offenders, both legal policies have the same deterrent level, but act-based sanctions end up punishing more people and the sanctions are lower. However when the assessment of the probability of harm diverges across individuals, the choice between harm-based or act-based sanctions depends on whether it is the enforcer or the average individual who is better informed. Legal policy implications are discussed.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5899.
Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Find related papers by JEL classification:
- K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2006-11-04 (All new papers)
- NEP-LAW-2006-11-04 (Law & Economics)
- NEP-REG-2006-11-04 (Regulation)
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