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Crime, punishment and social norms

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  • Weibull, Jörgen

    ()
    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

  • Villa, Edgar

    (Boston University)

Abstract

We analyze the interplay between economic incentives and social norms when individuals decide whether or not to engage in criminal activity. More specifically, we assume that there is a social norm against criminal activity and that deviations from the norm result in feelings of guilt or shame. The intensity of these feelings is here endogenous in the sense that they are stronger when the population fraction obeying the norm is larger. As a consequence, a gradual reduction of the sanctions against criminal activity, or of the taxation of legal incomes, may weaken the social norm against crime. Due to the potential multiplicity of equilibria in our model, such a gradual change may even induce a discontinuous increase in the crime rate. We show that law enforcement policies may have dramatic and permanent efects on the crime rate, and lead to hysteresis. We also define political equilibrium under majority rule and show how a majority of individuals, who feel no guilt or shame from violating the law, in political equilibrium can exploit a minority who do have such feelings.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Stockholm School of Economics in its series Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance with number 610.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 10 Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0610

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Keywords: crime; punishment; social norm; political equilibrium;

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References

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  1. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jörg Weibull, 2003. "Social Norms and Welfare State Dynamics," CESifo Working Paper Series 931, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Bar-Gill, Oren & Harel, Alon, 2001. "Crime Rates and Expected Sanctions: The Economics of Deterrence Revisited," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 485-501, Part I Ju.
  3. Huck, Steffen & Kübler, Dorothea & Weibull, Jörgen, 2012. "Social norms and economic incentives in firms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 173-185.
  4. Fender, John, 1999. "A general equilibrium model of crime and punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 437-453, July.
  5. Lindbeck, Assar & Nyberg, Sten & Weibull, Jörgen W., 1997. "Social Norms and Economic Incentives in the Welfare State," Working Paper Series 476, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  6. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  7. Eric Rasmusen, 1995. "``Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality''," Law and Economics 9506001, EconWPA.
  8. Bruno S. Frey & Lars P. Feld, 2002. "Deterrence and Morale in Taxation: An Empirical Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 760, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Pommerehne, Werner W & Weck-Hannemann, Hannelore, 1996. " Tax Rates, Tax Administration and Income Tax Evasion in Switzerland," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 88(1-2), pages 161-70, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Paolo Buonanno & Daniel Montolio & Paolo Vanin, 2009. "Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(1), pages 145-170, 02.
  2. Salima Douhou & Jan Magnus & Arthur Soest, 2012. "Peer Reporting and the Perception of Fairness," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(3), pages 289-310, September.
  3. Paolo Buonanno & Giacomo Pasini & Paolo Vanin, 2008. "Crime and Social Sanction," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0071, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  4. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2011. "Laws and Norms," CEPR Discussion Papers 8663, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Matteo Cervellati & Paolo Vanin, 2010. "”Thou shalt not covet ...”: Prohibitions, Temptation and Moral Values," Working Papers 2010.54, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

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