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A Note on Optimal Fines When Wealth Varies Among Individuals

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  • A. Mitchell Polinsky
  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

An important result in the economic theory of enforcement is that, under certain circumstances, it is optimal for a fine to be as high as possible - to equal the entire wealth of individuals. Such a fine allows the probability of detection to be as low as possible, thereby saving enforcement costs. This note shows that when the level of wealth varies among individuals, the optimal fine generally is less than the wealth of the highest wealth individuals, and may well be less than the wealth of most individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3232
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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.
    2. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
    3. Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "The optimal probability and magnitude of fines for acts that definitely are undesirable," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 3-11, March.
    4. 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 880-891, December.
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