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A Note on Optimal Fines When Wealth Varies among Individuals

  • Polinsky, A Mitchell
  • Shavell, Steven

An important result in the economic theory of enforcement is that, under certain circumstances, it is optimal for a fine to be as high as possible - to equal the entire wealth of individuals. Such a fine allows the probability of detection to be as low as possible, thereby saving enforcement costs. This note shows that when the level of wealth varies among individuals, the optimal fine generally is less than the wealth of the highest wealth individuals, and may well be less than the wealth of most individuals.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 81 (1991)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 618-21

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:81:y:1991:i:3:p:618-21
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  1. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  3. Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "The optimal probability and magnitude of fines for acts that definitely are undesirable," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 3-11, March.
  4. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
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