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Economic Analysis of Public Law Enforcement and Criminal Law

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  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

This paper contains the chapters on public enforcement of law and on criminal law from a general, forthcoming book, Foundations of Economic Analysis of Law (Harvard University Press, 2003). By public law enforcement is meant the use of public law enforcement agents -- such as police, tax inspectors, regulatory personnel -- to enforce legal rules. A number of important dimensions of public law enforcement may be distinguished. One is the choice of the basic rule of liability: whether liability is strict or fault-based, and whether liability is imposed only if harm is done or may be imposed on the basis of acts alone (independently of the occurrence of harm). A second dimension of enforcement is the type of sanction, whether monetary or nonmonetary, notably, imprisonment. A third aspect of enforcement is the magnitude of sanctions. And a fourth dimension of enforcement is the degree of enforcement effort, which determines the probability of imposition of sanctions. These dimensions of enforcement are discussed in the chapters that follow. In chapter 20, the basic theory of public enforcement employing monetary sanctions is discussed; in chapter 21, the basic theory of enforcement using nonmonetary sanctions is examined; and in chapter 22, extensions to the basic theory are considered. Then, in chapter 23, functions of sanctions apart from deterrence, namely, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and retribution, are discussed. Finally, in chapter 24, the subject of criminal law is addressed against the background of the theory of public enforcement of law.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Shavell, 2003. "Economic Analysis of Public Law Enforcement and Criminal Law," NBER Working Papers 9698, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9698
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 343-363, April.
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    3. 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.
    4. Shavell, Steven, 1987. "The Optimal Use of Nonmonetary Sanctions as a Deterrent," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 584-592, September.
    5. Steven D. Levitt, 1998. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1156-1185, December.
    6. Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-351.
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    8. Innes, Robert, 1999. "Remediation and self-reporting in optimal law enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 379-393, June.
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    11. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 129, UCLA Department of Economics.
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    14. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "Optimal Sanctions When Individuals Are Imperfectly Informed about the Probability of Apprehension," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 365-370, June.
    15. 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.
    16. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
    17. Numa Garoupa, 1999. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Dissemination of Information," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 183-196, May.
    18. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
    19. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-295, September.
    20. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 583-606, June.
    21. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Motta, Alberto & Burlando, Alfredo, 2007. "Self reporting reduces corruption in law enforcement," MPRA Paper 5332, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Jun 2007.

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    JEL classification:

    • D00 - Microeconomics - - General - - - General
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty

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