Do Explicit Reasons Make Legal Intervention More Effective? An Experimental Study
41 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2013 Last revised: 31 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2018
When judges or public authorities intervene in citizens’ lives, they normally must give explicit reasons. Justification primarily serves the sense of justice. The law’s subjects want to understand the intervention. But does justification also have a forward-looking effect? Are individuals more likely to change their behavior in the legally desired direction if the intervention is accompanied by explanation? And do authorities correctly anticipate the effect? To answer these questions under controlled conditions, we use a standard tool from experimental economics. We introduce central punishment to a public goods experiment. In the Baseline, authorities are requested to justify punishment decisions, but the reasons are kept confidential. In the Private treatment, only the addressee learns the justification. In the Public treatment, reasons are made public. Whenever reasons are communicated, there is less monetary punishment. Experimental authorities partly substitute words for action. Yet this is only effective, in the sense of mitigating the dilemma, if reasons are made public.
Keywords: justification requirement, governance effect, public good, experiment
JEL Classification: C91, D03, D62, D63, H41, K14, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation