The Behavioral Economics of Crime and Punishment
The Becker proposition (BP) is one of the founding pillars of the modern literature on Law and Economics. It states that it is optimal to impose the severest possible punishment (to maintain effective deterrence) at the lowest possible probability (to economize on enforcement costs). The BP is not consistent with the evidence. This is known as the Becker paradox. Using evidence from a wide range of phenomena we show that none of the proposed explanations for the Becker paradox are satisfactory. The BP has largely been considered within an expected utility framework. We clarify the Becker proposition and its welfare implications under expected utility. We show that BP also holds under rank dependent expected utility and cumulative prospect theory, the two main alternatives to expected utility. al-Nowaihi and Dhami (2010a) recently propose composite cumulative prospect theory that combines prospect theory with cumulative prospect theory. Under plausible conditions CCP is able to resolve the Becker paradox. Our article opens the way for incorporating non-expected utility theories into an economic analysis of criminal activity.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2010|
|Date of revision:||Jul 2010|
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- Avner Bar-Ilan & Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "The Response to Fines and Probability of Detection in a Series of Experiments," NBER Working Papers 8638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Ali al-Nowaihi & Sanjit Dhami, 2010. "Composite Prospect Theory: A proposal to combine ‘prospect theory’ and ‘cumulative prospect theory’," Discussion Papers in Economics 10/11, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
- Bar-Ilan, Avner & Sacerdote, Bruce, 2004. "The Response of Criminals and Noncriminals to Fines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 1-17, April.
- Ali al-Nowaihi & Sanjit Dhami, 2010. "Probability Weighting Functions," Discussion Papers in Economics 10/10, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
- Ali al-Nowaihi & Ian Bradley & Sanjit Dhami, 2006. "The Utility Function Under Prospect Theory," Discussion Papers in Economics 06/15, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.