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Economic Analysis of Public Law Enforcement and Criminal Law

  • Steven Shavell

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9698.

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Date of creation: May 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9698
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  1. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & Louis Kaplow, 1992. "Optimal Sanctions When Individuals are Imperfectly Informed About the Probability of Apprehension," NBER Working Papers 4079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Shavell, Steven, 1987. "The Optimal Use of Nonmonetary Sanctions as a Deterrent," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 584-92, September.
  3. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
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  14. 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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  17. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
  18. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Andreoni, J. & Erard, B. & Feinstein, J., 1996. "Tax Compliance," Working papers 9610r, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  20. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1992. "Monitoring vis-a-vis Investigation in Enforcement of Law," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 556-65, June.
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