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Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines

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  • A. Mitchell Polinsky
  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

Some of the costs of enforcing laws are fixed" - - in the sense that they do not depend on the number of individuals who commit harmful acts- -while other costs are "variable"- - they rise with the number of such individuals. This article analyzes the effects of fixed and variable enforcement costs on the optimal fine and the optimal probability of detection. It is shown that the optimal fine rises to reflect variable enforcement costs; that the optimal fine is not directly affected by fixed enforcement costs; and that the optimal probability depends on both types of enforcement costs.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3429.

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Date of creation: Sep 1990
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Publication status: published as Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 35, No. 1, (April 1992), pp.133-148
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3429

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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  2. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Shavell, Steven, 1982. "Pigouvian taxation with administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 385-394, December.
  3. Stigler, George J, 1970. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(3), pages 526-36, May-June.
  4. Shavell, Steven, 1991. "Specific versus General Enforcement of Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1088-1108, October.
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