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Criminal constitutions

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  • Peter T. Leeson
  • David B. Skarbek

Abstract

Why do criminals use constitutions? This article argues that constitutions perform three functions in criminal organisations. First, criminal constitutions promote consensus by creating common knowledge among criminals about what the organisation expects of them and what they can expect of the organisation's other members. Second, criminal constitutions regulate behaviours that are privately beneficially to individual criminals but costly to their organisation as a whole. Third, criminal constitutions generate information about member misconduct and coordinate the enforcement of rules that prohibit such behaviour. By performing these functions, constitutions facilitate criminal cooperation and enhance criminals' profit. To examine our hypothesis we examine the constitutions of two criminal organisations: eighteenth-century Caribbean pirates and the contemporary Californian prison gang, La Nuestra Familia.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter T. Leeson & David B. Skarbek, 2010. "Criminal constitutions," Global Crime, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(3), pages 279-297, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:fglcxx:v:11:y:2010:i:3:p:279-297
    DOI: 10.1080/17440572.2010.490632
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Leeson, 2014. "Pirates, prisoners, and preliterates: anarchic context and the private enforcement of law," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 365-379, June.
    2. repec:bla:ajecsc:v:76:y:2017:i:5:p:1107-1132 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Rustam Romaniuc & Katherine Farrow & Lisette Ibanez & Alain Marciano, 2016. "The perils of government enforcement," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 166(1), pages 161-182, January.
    4. Daniel D’Amico, 2012. "Comparative political economy when anarchism is on the table," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 25(1), pages 63-75, March.
    5. James Kostelnik & David Skarbek, 2013. "The governance institutions of a drug trafficking organization," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 156(1), pages 95-103, July.

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