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The Economics of Desecration: Flag Burning and Related Activities


  • Rasmusen, Eric


When a symbol is desecrated, the desecrator obtains benefits while other people incur costs. Negative externalities are intrinsic to desecration, suggesting a case for government regulation if the costs exceed the benefits. The case for restrictions is especially strong because of the impracticality of Coasean bargaining and the possibility of efficient lawbreaking. In addition, desecration reduces the incentive for the creation and maintenance of symbols, which, like other goods, need property-rights protection for efficient production. Copyright 1998 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Rasmusen, Eric, 1998. "The Economics of Desecration: Flag Burning and Related Activities," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 245-269, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:27:y:1998:i:2:p:245-69

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    Cited by:

    1. Dhammika Dharmapala & Richard H. McAdams, 2003. "Words that Kill? Economic Perspectives on Hate Speech and Hate Crimes," Working papers 2003-05, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    2. Michael Rushton, 2011. "Artistic Freedom," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Dhammika Dharmapala & Richard H. McAdams, 2005. "Words That Kill? An Economic Model of the Influence of Speech on Behavior (with Particular Reference to Hate Speech)," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 93-136, January.

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