IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this book chapter or follow this series

The Theory of Public Enforcement of Law

  • Polinsky, A. Mitchell
  • Shavell, Steven

This chapter surveys the theory of the public enforcement of law--the use of governmental agents (regulators, inspectors, tax auditors, police, prosecutors) to detect and to sanction violators of legal rules. The theoretical core of the analysis addresses the following basic questions: Should the form of the sanction imposed on a liable party be a fine, an imprisonment term, or a combination of the two? Should the rule of liability be strict or fault-based? If violators are caught only with a probability, how should the level of the sanction be adjusted? How much of society's resources should be devoted to apprehending violators? A variety of extensions of the central theory are then examined, including: activity level; errors; the costs of imposing fines; general enforcement; marginal deterrence; the principal-agent relationship; settlements; self-reporting; repeat offenders; imperfect knowledge about the probability and magnitude of sanctions; corruption; incapacitation; costly observation of wealth; social norms; and the fairness of sanctions.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B7P5W-4R2PJJP-B/1/ce4a070c9fe0411f8a03475ac1628a44
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

as
in new window

This chapter was published in:
  • A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell (ed.), 2007. "Handbook of Law and Economics," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of Law and Economics with number 1-06.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:lawchp:1-06
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevierdirect.com/product.jsp?isbn=9780444512352

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Louis Kaplow, 1989. "The Optimal Probability and Magnitude of Fines for Acts that Definitely are Undesirable," NBER Working Papers 3008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Diamond, P.A., 1997. "Integrating Punishment and Efficiency Concerns in Punitive Damages for Reckless Disregard of Risks to Others," Working papers 97-19, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    3. HINDRIKS, Jean & KEEN, Michael & MUTHOO, Abhinay, . "Corruption, extortion and evasion," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1671, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    4. Bowles, Roger & Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. "Casual police corruption and the economics of crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 75-87, March.
    5. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Corruption and Optimal Law Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 6945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1988. "The deterrent effects of settlements and trials," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 109-116, June.
    7. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1991. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," NBER Working Papers 3822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Sah, Raaj K, 1991. "Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1272-95, December.
    9. Bar-Gill, O. & Harel, A., 2000. "Crime Rates and Expected Sanctions: The Economics of Deterrence Revisited," Papers 00-14, Tel Aviv.
    10. Winand Emons, 2001. "A Note on the Optimal Punishment for Repeat Offenders," Diskussionsschriften dp0104, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    11. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1982. "The Optimal Use of Fines and Imprisonment," NBER Working Papers 0932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. (Special Paper), 1997. "Programme and Proceedings of 1997 Warwick Summer Research workshop on "Dynamic Games and their Economic Applications"," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 488, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    13. Shavell, Steven, 1993. "The Optimal Structure of Law Enforcement," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 255-87, April.
    14. Cooter, Robert D & Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1989. "Economic Analysis of Legal Disputes and Their Resolution," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 1067-97, September.
    15. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1997. "On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence," NBER Working Papers 6259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Shavell, Steven, 1992. "A note on marginal deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 345-355, September.
    17. 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 1039-66, October.
    18. William M. Landes, 1974. "An Economic Analysis of the Courts," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 164-214 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. repec:att:wimass:9610 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Segerson, Kathleen & Tietenberg, Tom, 1992. "The structure of penalties in environmental enforcement: An economic analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 179-200, September.
    21. Innes, Robert, 1999. "Remediation and self-reporting in optimal law enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 379-393, June.
    22. Craswell, Richard & Calfee, John E, 1986. "Deterrence and Uncertain Legal Standards," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(2), pages 279-303, Fall.
    23. Shavell, Steven, 1997. "The Fundamental Divergence between the Private and the Social Motive to Use the Legal System," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 575-612, June.
    24. Shavell, Steven, 1997. "The optimal level of corporate liability given the limited ability of corporations to penalize their employees," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 203-213, June.
    25. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1992. "Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 133-48, April.
    26. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1981. "On the Usefulness of Controlling Individuals: An Economic Analysis of Rehabilitation, Incapacitation, and Deterrence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 307-22, June.
    27. Clotfelter, Charles T., 1978. "Private security and the public safety," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 388-402, July.
    28. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "Optimal Sanctions When Individuals Are Imperfectly Informed about the Probability of Apprehension," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 365-70, June.
    29. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1993. "Should employees be subject to fines and imprisonment given the existence of corporate liability?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 239-257, September.
    30. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1993. "A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121743, June.
    31. Png, I. P. L., 1986. "Optimal subsidies and damages in the presence of judicial error," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 101-105, June.
    32. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
    33. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    34. Shavell, Steven, 1991. "Specific versus General Enforcement of Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1088-1108, October.
    35. Miceli, Thomas J., 1991. "Optimal criminal procedure: Fairness and deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 3-10, May.
    36. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-72, July.
    37. Malik Arun S., 1993. "Self-Reporting and the Design of Policies for Regulating Stochastic Pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 241-257, May.
    38. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
    39. Steven Shavell, 2002. "Law versus Morality as Regulators of Conduct," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 227-257.
    40. Stigler, George J, 1970. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(3), pages 526-36, May-June.
    41. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1991. "A model of optimal fines for repeat offenders," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 291-306, December.
    42. Arlen, Jennifer, 1994. "The Potentially Perverse Effects of Corporate Criminal Liability," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 832-67, June.
    43. Garoupa, Nuno, 1998. "Optimal Law Enforcement and Imperfect Information When Wealth Varies among Individuals," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(260), pages 479-90, November.
    44. Kenkel, Donald S., 1993. "Do drunk drivers pay their way? a note on optimal penalties for drunk driving," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 137-149, July.
    45. Shavell, Steven, 1987. "The Optimal Use of Nonmonetary Sanctions as a Deterrent," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 584-92, September.
    46. Thomas J. Miceli & Catherine Bucci, 2004. "A Simple Theory of Increasing Penalties for Repeat Offenders," Working papers 2004-39, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    47. Garoupa, Nuno & Klerman, Daniel, 2004. "Corruption and the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 219-225, June.
    48. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1992. "Accuracy in the Determination of Liability," NBER Working Papers 4203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    49. repec:att:wimass:8908 is not listed on IDEAS
    50. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1990. "A Note on Optimal Fines When Wealth Varies Among Individuals," NBER Working Papers 3232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    51. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "Optimal Deterrence, Uninformed Individuals, and Acquiring Information about Whether Acts Are Subject to Sanctions," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 93-128, Spring.
    52. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
    53. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1995. "Corruptible Law Enforcers: How Should They Be Compensated?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(428), pages 145-59, January.
    54. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1988. "Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 713-28, September.
    55. Kessler, Daniel P & Levitt, Steven D, 1999. "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 343-63, April.
    56. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Jiang, Neville, 1993. "Are fines more efficient than imprisonment?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 391-413, July.
    57. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1977. "Public Services, Private Substitutes, and the Demand for Protection against Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 867-77, December.
    58. Pranab Bardhan, 1997. "Corruption and Development: A Review of Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1320-1346, September.
    59. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Kaplow, Louis, 1993. "Optimal sanctions and differences in individuals' likelihood of avoiding detection," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 217-224, June.
    60. Levitt, Steven D., 1997. "Incentive compatibility constraints as an explanation for the use of prison sentences instead of fines," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 179-192, June.
    61. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1998. "On offense history and the theory of deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 305-324, September.
    62. Arun S. Malik, 1990. "Avoidance, Screening and Optimum Enforcement," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(3), pages 341-353, Autumn.
    63. Lewin, Jeff L. & Trumbull, William N., 1990. "The social value of crime?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 271-284, December.
    64. Newman, Harry A. & Wright, David W., 1990. "Strict liability in a principal-agent model," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 219-231, December.
    65. Shavell, Steven, 1991. "Individual precautions to prevent theft: Private versus socially optimal behavior," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 123-132, September.
    66. Kobayashi, Bruce H. & Lott, John Jr., 1992. "Low-probability-high-penalty enforcement strategies and the efficient operation of the plea-bargaining system," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 69-77, March.
    67. James Andreoni, 1991. "Reasonable Doubt and the Optimal Magnitude of Fines: Should the Penalty Fit the Crime?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(3), pages 385-395, Autumn.
    68. 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.
    69. Richard H. McAdams & Eric B. Rasmusen, 2004. "Norms in Law and Economics," Working Papers 2004-11, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    70. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1974. "The Private Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 0062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    71. Grossman, Gene M & Katz, Michael L, 1983. "Plea Bargaining and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 749-57, September.
    72. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Hu, Sheng-cheng & Huang, Ting-yuan, 2000. "Punishing repeat offenders more severely," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 127-140, March.
    73. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:lawchp:1-06. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.