The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law
This article surveys the theory of the public enforcement of law -- the use of public agents (inspectors, tax auditors, police, prosecutors) to detect and to sanction violators of legal rules. We first present the basic elements of the theory, focusing on the probability of imposition of sanctions, the magnitude and form of sanctions, and the rule of liability. We then examine a variety of extensions of the central theory, concerning accidental harms, costs of imposing fines, errors, general enforcement, marginal deterrence, the principal-agent relationship, settlements, self-reporting, repeat offenders, imperfect knowledge about the probability and magnitude of fines, and incapacitation.
|Date of creation:||Mar 1999|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 38, no. 1 (March 2000): 45-76.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- James Andreoni, 1991.
"Reasonable Doubt and the Optimal Magnitude of Fines: Should the Penalty Fit the Crime?,"
RAND Journal of Economics,
The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(3), pages 385-395, Autumn.
- Andreoni, J., 1989. "Reasonable Doubt And The Optimal Magnitude Of Fines: Should The Penalty Fit The Crime," Working papers 8908, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
- Steven D. Levitt, 1995.
"The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence From Prison Overcrowding Litigation,"
NBER Working Papers
5119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Levitt, Steven D, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-51, May.
- Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "Optimal Deterrence, Uninformed Individuals, and Acquiring Information about Whether Acts Are Subject to Sanctions," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 93-128, Spring.
- Segerson, Kathleen & Tietenberg, Tom, 1992. "The structure of penalties in environmental enforcement: An economic analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 179-200, September.
- Sah, R.K., 1990.
"Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis,"
609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
- 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.
- Daniel Kessler & Steven D. Levitt, 1998.
"Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation,"
NBER Working Papers
6484, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Kessler, Daniel P & Levitt, Steven D, 1999. "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 343-63, April.
- Newman, Harry A. & Wright, David W., 1990. "Strict liability in a principal-agent model," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 219-231, December.
- Arlen, Jennifer, 1994. "The Potentially Perverse Effects of Corporate Criminal Liability," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 832-67, June.
- Spier, Kathryn E, 1997. "A Note on the Divergence between the Private and the Social Motive to Settle under a Negligence Rule," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 613-21, June.
- 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 880-91, December.
- 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.
- Landes, William M, 1971.
"An Economic Analysis of the Courts,"
Journal of Law and Economics,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 61-107, April.
- Gary S. Becker, 1968.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
- Kenkel, Donald S., 1993. "Do drunk drivers pay their way? a note on optimal penalties for drunk driving," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 137-149, July.
- Clotfelter, Charles T, 1977. "Public Services, Private Substitutes, and the Demand for Protection against Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 867-77, December.
- Kobayashi, Bruce H. & Lott, John Jr., 1992. "Low-probability-high-penalty enforcement strategies and the efficient operation of the plea-bargaining system," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 69-77, March.
- Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1988. "The deterrent effects of settlements and trials," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 109-116, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6993. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.