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Optimal Liability for Terrorism

  • Darius Lakdawalla
  • Eric Talley

This paper analyzes the normative role for civil liability in aligning terrorism precaution incentives, when the perpetrators of terrorism are unreachable by courts or regulators. We consider the strategic interaction among targets, subsidiary victims, and terrorists within a sequential, game-theoretic model. The model reveals that, while an "optimal" liability regime indeed exists, its features appear at odds with conventional legal templates. For example, it frequently prescribes damages payments from seemingly unlikely defendants, directing them to seemingly unlikely plaintiffs. The challenge of introducing such a regime using existing tort law doctrines, therefore, is likely to be prohibitive. Instead, we argue, efficient precaution incentives may be best provided by alternative policy mechanisms, such as a mutual public insurance pool for potential targets of terrorism, coupled with direct compensation to victims of terrorist attacks.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12578.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12578
Note: LE
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  1. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
  2. Alan Schwartz, 2004. "The Law and Economics of Costly Contracting," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 2-31, April.
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  4. Hui-Wen, Koo & Png, I. P. L., 1994. "Private security: Deterrent or diversion?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 87-101, March.
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  6. Schwartz, Alan & Watson, Joel, 2001. "The Law and Economics of Costly Contracting," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt2wh8m7bv, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  7. Keohane, Nathaniel O & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 2003. " The Ecology of Terror Defense," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 26(2-3), pages 201-29, March-May.
  8. 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.
  9. Ian Ayres & Steven D. Levitt, 1997. "Measuring Positive Externalities from Unobservable Victim Precaution: An Empirical Analysis of Lojack," NBER Working Papers 5928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Freeman, Scott & Grogger, Jeffrey & Sonstelie, Jon, 1996. "The Spatial Concentration of Crime," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 216-231, September.
  11. Albert Choi & Chris Sanchirico, . "Should Plaintiffs Win What Defendants Lose?: Litigation Stakes, Litigation Effort, and the Benefits of 'Decoupling'," Scholarship at Penn Law upenn_wps-1000, University of Pennsylvania Law School.
  12. Kunreuther, Howard & Heal, Geoffrey, 2003. " Interdependent Security," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 26(2-3), pages 231-49, March-May.
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