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Is There An Expressive Function of Law? An Empirical Analysis of Voting Laws with Symbolic Fines


  • Patricia Funk


This article empirically investigates whether law affects behavior beyond deterrence ("expressive function of law"). With Swiss panel data, I find that the legal abolition of the voting duty significantly decreased average turnout, even though the fines for not voting have only been symbolic. As for the size of Cantonal turnout reduction, it widely differs between the Cantons and is highly correlated with voter participation before the removal of the voting duty. In contrast to the voting duty, the introduction of postal voting did not affect voter turnout in spite of the substantial decrease in transaction costs. Therefore, in public good areas such as voting, even a sanctionless law targeting at the civic duty might have a bigger impact on behavior than actions which affect the costs of provision for the public good. Copyright 2007, Oxford University Press.

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  • Patricia Funk, 2007. "Is There An Expressive Function of Law? An Empirical Analysis of Voting Laws with Symbolic Fines," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 135-159.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:9:y:2007:i:1:p:135-159

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 396-418, June.
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