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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. 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.
  2. Steven D. Levitt, 1997. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 6191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andreoni, J. & Erard, B. & Feinstein, J., 1996. "Tax Compliance," Working papers 9610r, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. Friedman, David & Sjostrom, William, 1993. "Hanged for a Sheep--The Economics of Marginal Deterrence," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 345-66, June.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  6. 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.
  7. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 129, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Fischel, Daniel R & Sykes, Alan O, 1996. "Corporate Crime," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 319-49, June.
  9. Innes, Robert, 1999. "Remediation and self-reporting in optimal law enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 379-393, June.
  10. 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.
  11. Numa Garoupa, 1999. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Dissemination of Information," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 183-196, May.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Sah, Raaj K, 1991. "Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1272-95, December.
  15. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1991. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," NBER Working Papers 3822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1991. "A model of optimal fines for repeat offenders," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 291-306, December.
  18. 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.
  19. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 114, UCLA Department of Economics.
  20. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
  21. Stigler, George J, 1970. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(3), pages 526-36, May-June.
  22. Anderson, David A, 1999. "The Aggregate Burden of Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 611-42, October.
  23. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
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