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Social Welfare and the Benefits to Crime

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  • Philip A. Curry

    (Department of Economics, University of Waterloo)

  • Matthew Doyle

    (Department of Economics, University of Waterloo)

Abstract

There exists a large literature on the optimal deterrence of crime. Within the literature, however, there exists a controversy over what the appropriate criterion to determine optimality should be. While the most popular method is that of maximization of a utilitarian welfare function, another criterion sometimes used is that of cost minimization. The controversy stems from the question of whether the benefits to crime enjoyed by criminals ought to be included in the welfare analysis. This paper argues that the controversy is an artifact of the fact that the standard model restricts a potential criminal's choice to one of committing a crime or doing nothing. We show that when potential criminals are given the additional choice of achieving their ends through voluntary methods that maximizing the sum of utilities is in fact equivalent to minimizing the costs of crime. The model developed also provides explanations for sanctions that increase in one's criminal history and why necessity may be a partial defense.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Waterloo, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1205.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision: Jul 2012
Handle: RePEc:wat:wpaper:1205

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  1. Louis Hotte & Tanguy van Ypersele, 2008. "Individual protection against property crime: decomposing the effects of protection observability," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(2), pages 537-563, May.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  3. Shavell, Steven, 1991. "Individual precautions to prevent theft: Private versus socially optimal behavior," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 123-132, September.
  4. Dhammika Dharmapala & Nuno Garoupa, 2002. "Penalty Enhancement for Hate Crimes: An Economic Analysis," Working papers 2002-12, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  5. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
  6. Miceli Thomas J. & Bucci Catherine, 2005. "A Simple Theory of Increasing Penalties for Repeat Offenders," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 71-80, April.
  7. George J. Stigler, 1974. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 55-67 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Keith N. Hylton, 1996. "Optimal Law Enforcement and Victim Precaution," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(1), pages 197-206, Spring.
  9. Moen, E.R., 1995. "Competitive Search Equilibrium," Memorandum 37/1995, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  10. Kenneth Burdett & Shouyong Shi & Randall Wright, 2001. "Pricing and Matching with Frictions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(5), pages 1060-1085, October.
  11. Peters, Michael, 1984. "Bertrand Equilibrium with Capacity Constraints and Restricted Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(5), pages 1117-27, September.
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