The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law
A. Mitchell Polinsky
Stanford Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Stanford Law School, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 159
This article surveys the theory of the public enforcement of law--the use of public agents (inspectors, tax auditors, police prosecutors) to detect and to sanction violators of legal rules. We first present the basic elements of the theory, focusing on the probability of imposition of sanctions, the magnitude and form of sanctions, and the rule of liability. We then examine a variety of extensions of the central theory, concerning accidental harms, costs of imposing fines, errors, general enforcement, marginal deterrence, the principal-agent relationship, settlements, self reporting, repeat offenders, imperfect knowledge about the probability and magnitude of fines, and incapacitation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
JEL Classification: K42working papers series
Date posted: May 30, 1998
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