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Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines

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  • A. Mitchell Polinsky
  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

Some of the costs of enforcing laws are fixed" - - in the sense that they do not depend on the number of individuals who commit harmful acts- -while other costs are "variable"- - they rise with the number of such individuals. This article analyzes the effects of fixed and variable enforcement costs on the optimal fine and the optimal probability of detection. It is shown that the optimal fine rises to reflect variable enforcement costs; that the optimal fine is not directly affected by fixed enforcement costs; and that the optimal probability depends on both types of enforcement costs.

Suggested Citation

  • A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1990. "Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines," NBER Working Papers 3429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3429
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. George J. Stigler, 1974. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 55-67, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Shavell, Steven, 1982. "Pigouvian taxation with administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 385-394, December.
    4. Shavell, Steven, 1991. "Specific versus General Enforcement of Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1088-1108, October.
    5. C. Eugene Steuerle, 1986. "Who Should Pay For Collecting Taxes," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 650820, September.
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