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Detection avoidance and deterrence: some paradoxical arithmetics


  • Eric Langlais


This paper extends Malik's (1990) analysis to the case where criminals' avoidance efforts and public expenditures in the detection of criminals are strategic complements in the aggregate technology of control of illegal behaviours. In this set up, we show that whenever criminals' avoidance efforts are more sensitive to the frequency than to the severity of sanctions, it is always socially efficient to set the fine at the maximal possible level. However, several paradoxical consequences occur: there may exist overdeterrence at optimum; more repressive policies lead to less arrestations of offenders while more crimes may be committed; at the same time, the society may be closer to the first best number of crimes.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Langlais, 2007. "Detection avoidance and deterrence: some paradoxical arithmetics," Working Papers of BETA 2007-06, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulp:sbbeta:2007-06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Garoupa, Nuno, 2001. "Optimal magnitude and probability of fines," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(9), pages 1765-1771, October.
    2. Lewin, Jeff L. & Trumbull, William N., 1990. "The social value of crime?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 271-284, December.
    3. Neilson, William S. & Winter, Harold, 1997. "On criminals' risk attitudes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 97-102, August.
    4. Neilson, William S, 1998. "Optimal Punishment Schemes with State-Dependent Preferences," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(2), pages 266-271, April.
    5. Grogger, Jeffrey, 1991. "Certainty vs. Severity of Punishment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(2), pages 297-309, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Block, Michael K & Gerety, Vernon E, 1995. "Some Experimental Evidence on Differences between Student and Prisoner Reactions to Monetary Penalties and Risk," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 123-138, January.
    8. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-295, September.
    9. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Kaplow, Louis, 1993. "Optimal sanctions and differences in individuals' likelihood of avoiding detection," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 217-224, June.
    10. Barry Nalebuff & David Scharfstein, 1987. "Testing in Models of Asymmetric Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(2), pages 265-277.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eric Langlais, 2009. "On the Ambiguous Effects of Repression," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 93-94, pages 327-348.
    2. Friehe, Tim, 2009. "Precaution v. avoidance: A comparison of liability rules," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 214-216, December.
    3. Jensen, Sissel & Kvaløy, Ola & Olsen, Trond E. & Sorgard, Lars, 2013. "Crime and punishment: When tougher antitrust enforcement leads to higher overcharge," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 4/2013, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    4. repec:oup:amlawe:v:19:y:2017:i:2:p:464-485. is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Chopard, Bertrand & Langlais, Eric, 2009. "Défaut de paiement stratégique et loi sur les défaillances d'entreprises
      [Strategic default and bankruptcy law]
      ," MPRA Paper 14366, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Tim Friehe & Verena Utikal, 2015. "Intentions Undercover - Hiding Intentions is Considered Unfair," CESifo Working Paper Series 5218, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Wielhouwer, Jacco L., 2013. "When is public enforcement of insider trading regulations effective?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 52-60.
    8. Dechenaux, Emmanuel & Samuel, Andrew, 2014. "Announced vs. surprise inspections with tipping-off," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 167-183.
    9. Tim Friehe & Thomas J. Miceli, 2017. "On Punishment Severity and Crime Rates," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 464-485.
    10. Florian Baumann & Tim Friehe, 2014. "Regulating harmless activity to fight crime," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 113(1), pages 79-95, September.

    More about this item


    deterrence; avoidance activities; optimal enforcement of law.;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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