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Unjust laws and illegal norms


  • Carbonara, Emanuela
  • Parisi, Francesco
  • von Wangenheim, Georg


Due to a variety of circumstances, lawmakers occasionally create laws whose aims are perceived as outright unjust by the majority of the people. In other situations, the law may utilize improper means for the pursuit of a just goal. In all such cases, lawmaking processes generate rules that do not reflect the values of the underlying population. In these cases individuals may face legal commands or prohibitions that conflict with their sense of justice or fairness. Individuals can oppose unjust laws through protest. Social opposition to unjust laws may trigger social norms that can have countervailing effects on legal intervention. The dynamic effects of these phenomena are the object of this paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Carbonara, Emanuela & Parisi, Francesco & von Wangenheim, Georg, 2012. "Unjust laws and illegal norms," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 285-299.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:32:y:2012:i:3:p:285-299 DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2012.03.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
    2. Bohnet, Iris & Cooter, Robert, 2001. "Expressive Law: Framing or Equilibrium Selection?," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt5h6970h8, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    3. Paul Robinson, "undated". "Why Does The Criminal Law Care What The Lay Persons Thinks Is Just? Coercive Versus Normative Crime Control," Scholarship at Penn Law upenn_wps-1050, University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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    5. Cooter, Robert, 1998. "Expressive Law and Economics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 585-608, June.
    6. 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.
    7. Oksanen Ville & Välimäki Mikko, 2007. "Theory of Deterrence and Individual Behavior. Can Lawsuits Control File Sharing on the Internet?," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(3), pages 693-714, December.
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    9. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S. & Huck, Steffen, 2001. "More Order with Less Law: On Contract Enforcement, Trust, and Crowding," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(01), pages 131-144, March.
    10. Carbonara, Emanuela & Pasotti, Piero, 2010. "Social dynamics and minority protection," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 317-328, December.
    11. Alon Harel & Alon Klement, 2007. "The Economics of Stigma: Why More Detection of Crime May Result in Less Stigmatization," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 355-377, June.
    12. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Emanuela Carbonara & Enrico Santarelli & Hien Thu Tran, 2016. "De jure determinants of new firm formation: how the pillars of constitutions influence entrepreneurship," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 139-162, June.
    2. Fabbri, Marco, 2015. "Shaping tax norms through lotteries," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 8-15.
    3. Hiller, Victor & Recoules, Magali, 2013. "Changes in divorce patterns: Culture and the law," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 77-87.
    4. Shaun Larcom & Luca A. Panzone & Timothy Swanson, 2017. "Follow-the-leader? Measuring the internalisation of law," CIES Research Paper series 50-2017, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.
    5. Sophie Harnay & Elisabeth Tovar, 2017. "Obeying vs. resisting unfair laws. A structural analysis of the internalization of collective preferences on redistribution using classification trees and random forests," EconomiX Working Papers 2017-34, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.

    More about this item


    Social norms; Countervailing effect; Expressive function; Law enforcement; Civil disobedience;

    JEL classification:

    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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