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Marginal Deterrence in Enforcement of Law

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  • Mookherjee, Dilip
  • Png, I P L

Abstract

The authors characterize optimal enforcement in a setting in which individuals can select among various levels of some activity, all of which are monitored at the same rate but may be prosecuted and punished at varying rates. For less harmful acts, marginal expected penalties ought to fall short of marginal harms caused. Indeed, some range of very minor acts should be legalized. For more harmful acts, whether marginal expected penalties should fall short of or exceed marginal harms depends on the balance between monitoring and prosecution/punishment costs. The authors also explore how the optimal enforcement policy varies with changes in these costs. Copyright 1994 by University of Chicago Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1994. "Marginal Deterrence in Enforcement of Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 1039-1066, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:102:y:1994:i:5:p:1039-66
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Eric Maskin & John Riley, 1984. "Monopoly with Incomplete Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 171-196, Summer.
    3. Wilde, Louis L., 1992. "Criminal choice, nonmonetary sanctions and marginal deterrence: A normative analysis," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 333-344, September.
    4. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
    5. James Andreoni, 1991. "Reasonable Doubt and the Optimal Magnitude of Fines: Should the Penalty Fit the Crime?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, pages 385-395.
    6. Dickens, William T, et al, 1989. "Employee Crime and the Monitoring Puzzle," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(3), pages 331-347, July.
    7. Roger B. Myerson, 1981. "Optimal Auction Design," Mathematics of Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 6(1), pages 58-73, February.
    8. Russell Cooper, 1984. "On Allocative Distortions in Problems of Self-Selection," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(4), pages 568-577, Winter.
    9. Srinagesh, Padmanabhan & Bradburd, Ralph & Koo, Hui-Wen, 1992. "Bidirectional Distortion in Self-Selection Problems," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 223-228, June.
    10. Friedman, David & Sjostrom, William, 1993. "Hanged for a Sheep--The Economics of Marginal Deterrence," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 345-366, June.
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