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Making the Punishment Fit the Crime or Taliban Justice? Optimal Penalties Without Commitment

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  • Parikshit Ghosh

    (Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi, India)

Abstract

This paper argues that graduated penalties observed in most legal systems may be an attempt to direct law enforcement e orts towards crimes that are socially more harmful, thereby achieving better deterrence overall. The critical assumptions are-- the state cannot commit to a monitoring strategy, and has mixed motives (objectives other than deterrence). However, graduated penalties arise only in the presence of secondary motives that value punishment in itself, such as retribution or nes collected from violators. Other motives that are unrelated to the size of punishment, such as prevention of criminal attempts, will also lead to distortions, but those cannot be corrected by restructuring penalties. The overall harshness of a criminal justice system and the retributive instincts of its designers may be related in counter intuitive ways, and law enforcement may be improved through strategic delegation.

Suggested Citation

  • Parikshit Ghosh, 2009. "Making the Punishment Fit the Crime or Taliban Justice? Optimal Penalties Without Commitment," Working papers 175, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cde:cdewps:175
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Commitment; crime; deterrence; retribution; graduated penalties.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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