The concept of collective responsibility, or group punishment, for crimes or other harmful acts was a pervasive feature of ancient societies, as exemplified by the Roman doctrines of quasi-delicts and noxal liability, and the Greek notion of “pollution.” This chapter briefly surveys historical examples of collective responsibility, which have largely given way to the modern concept of individual responsibility, though vestiges of collective responsibility remain in modern culture and law (notably in the form of vicarious liability). The chapter then lays out a theoretical analysis of the choice between collective and individual responsibility that highlights those circumstances in which each is preferred as a law enforcement strategy.
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