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Retroactive Liability or the Public Purse?


  • Boyd, James
  • Kunreuther, Howard


The article addresses the question of whether responsibility for pollution created in the past should be retroactively applied to firms, or if the costs of cleaning up existing pollution should be financed by the public. We show that making firms liable for retrospective environmental costs can weaken the incentive to take precautions against future environmental costs. This follows since public financing of these costs can lead to greater prospective risk deterrence by allowing firms to more fully internalize the costs of future environmental risks. However, an analysis of existing public financing approaches highlights a set of dangers associated with their practical use. Copyright 1997 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • Boyd, James & Kunreuther, Howard, 1997. "Retroactive Liability or the Public Purse?," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 79-90, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:regeco:v:11:y:1997:i:1:p:79-90

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert H. Patrick & Frank A. Wolak, 2001. "Estimating the Customer-Level Demand for Electricity Under Real-Time Market Prices," NBER Working Papers 8213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Frank A. Wolak & Robert H. Patrick, 2001. "The Impact of Market Rules and Market Structure on the Price Determination Process in the England and Wales Electricity Market," NBER Working Papers 8248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Spiller, Pablo T, 1996. "Institutions and Commitment," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 421-452.
    4. Jarrell, Gregg A, 1978. "The Demand for State Regulation of the Electric Utility Industry," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 269-295, October.
    5. Paul L. Joskow & Roger G. Noll, 1981. "Regulation in Theory and Practice: An Overview," NBER Chapters,in: Studies in Public Regulation, pages 1-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Palmer, Karen & Ando, Amy, 1998. "Getting on the Map: The Political Economy of State-Level Electricity Restructuring," Discussion Papers dp-98-19-rev, Resources For the Future.
    7. Green, Richard J & Newbery, David M, 1992. "Competition in the British Electricity Spot Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 929-953, October.
    8. Gary S. Becker, 1983. "A Theory of Competition Among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400.
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    Cited by:

    1. Shuichi Ohori, 2006. "Optimal Environmental Tax and Level of Privatization in an International Duopoly," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 225-233, March.
    2. Boyd, James, 1996. "Banking on "Green Money:" Are Environmental Financial Responsibility Rules Fulfilling Their Promise?," Discussion Papers dp-96-26, Resources For the Future.
    3. Benjamin L. Collier & Andrew F. Haughwout & Howard C. Kunreuther & Erwann O. Michel-Kerjan & Michael A. Stewart, 2016. "Firms’ Management of Infrequent Shocks," NBER Working Papers 22612, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Haitao Yin & Howard Kunreuther & Matthew W. White, 2011. "Risk-Based Pricing and Risk-Reducing Effort: Does the Private Insurance Market Reduce Environmental Accidents?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 325-363.
    5. Haitao Yin & Howard Kunreuther & Matthew White, 2009. "Risk-Based Pricing and Risk-Reducing Effort: Does the Private Insurance Market Reduce Environmental Accidents?," NBER Working Papers 15100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Heyes, Anthony & Doucet, Joseph, 1997. "2-Stage Enforcement and Regulatory Polarisation: a Simple Model with Application to the USEPA," Cahiers de recherche 9717, Université Laval - Département d'économique.

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