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Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines

Listed author(s):
  • A. Mitchell Polinsky

The present paper analyzes the competitive, monopolistic, and public enforcement of fines allowing for the costs of enforcement to differ by the choice of the enforcer. There are a number of reasons to expect such differences. First, the benefits from coordinating enforcement -- for example, avoiding duplication of investigative effort and exploiting economies of scale in information processing -- are obtained under public enforcement and monopolistic enforcement, but not under competitive enforcement. Second, the profit motive might be imagined to lead to lower costs under either form of private enforcement relative to public enforcement. Third, when the revenue from fines under public enforcement is not sufficient to finance enforcement costs, there may be a deadweight burden incurred in making up the deficit from other sources. Conversely, if the fine revenue exceeds enforcement costs, the effective cost of enforcement would be lower. On balance, these considerations suggest that monopolistic enforcement may be cheaper than competitive enforcement, but that public enforcement could be more or less expensive than private enforcement.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0338.

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Date of creation: Apr 1979
Publication status: published as Polinsky, A. Mitchell. "Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines." The Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. IX, No. 1, (January 1980), pp. 105-127.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0338
Note: LE
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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.
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