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Corruption and Optimal Law Enforcement

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  • A. Mitchell Polinsky
  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

This article analyzes corruption of law enforcement agents: payment of bribes to agents so that they will not report violations. Corruption dilutes deterrence because bribe payments are less than sanctions. The state may not be able to offset this effect of bribery by raising sanctions for the underlying offense. Thus, it may be optimal to expend resources to detect and penalize corruption. At the optimum, however, corruption may not be deterred. Nonetheless, it may be desirable to attempt to control corruption in order to raise the offender's costs -- the sum of the bribe payment and the expected sanction for bribery -- and thereby increase deterrence of the underlying violation.

Suggested Citation

  • A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Corruption and Optimal Law Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 6945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6945
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    1. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1995. "Corruptible Law Enforcers: How Should They Be Compensated?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(428), pages 145-159, January.
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    4. Basu, Kaushik & Bhattacharya, Sudipto & Mishra, Ajit, 1992. "Notes on bribery and the control of corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 349-359, August.
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    7. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
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    9. 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.
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    11. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1974. "The Private Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 0062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    13. Bowles, Roger & Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. "Casual police corruption and the economics of crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 75-87, March.
    14. Png, I. P. L., 1986. "Optimal subsidies and damages in the presence of judicial error," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 101-105, June.
    15. Pranab Bardhan, 1997. "Corruption and Development: A Review of Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1320-1346, September.
    16. Tirole, Jean, 1986. "Hierarchies and Bureaucracies: On the Role of Collusion in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(2), pages 181-214, Fall.
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