Agency Problems in Law Enforcement: Theory and Application to the U.S. Coast Guard
We study two issues in the enforcement of public law. The first is whether the system of inspections and penalties set by the regulator is effective. The second is whether a better system of inspections and penalties can be designed, given the institutional constraints under which the regulator must function. We study these issues in the context of oil spill prevention activities of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the agency entrusted with the enforcement of maritime pollution laws. A theoretically optimal contract that mixes penalties based on the amount of pollution ex post with penalties based on the extent of noncompliance ex ante is derived. The effectiveness of USCG inspections and penalties in reducing oil spills is then econometrically studied using microlevel data on a panel of U.S. flag tank vessels. Whether the optimal penalty can potentially improve the effectiveness of compliance inspections in reducing oil spills is examined in the light of the empirical results and recent developments in the economics and public management literature on effective incentive contracting. Among our findings is the potential for combining unilateral incentive-based methods with cooperative methods based on reciprocity to solve the complex problem of law enforcement.
Volume (Year): 51 (2005)
Issue (Month): 11 (November)
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- Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997.
"Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments,"
Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
- Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1994. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," NBER Technical Working Papers 0151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Montserrat Grau & Theodore Groves, 1997. "The Oil Spill Process: The Effect of Coast Guard Monitoring on Oil Spills," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(4), pages 315-339, December.
- Steven Shavell, 1979. "Risk Sharing and Incentives in the Principal and Agent Relationship," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 55-73, Spring.
- Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-39, May.
- Stigler, George J, 1970. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(3), pages 526-36, May-June.
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