Using Social Norms as a Substitute for Law
33 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 28, 2015
This paper follows the law and norms literature in arguing that policymakers can use social norms to support or even replace regulation. Key to the approach offered here is the idea — borrowed from the folk theorem in game theory — that cooperative order can arise in circumstances where parties repeatedly interact. This paper proposes that repeated interaction between the same agents, specifically the intensity of it, may be used as a yardstick with which to gauge the potential to scale back regulation and use social norms as a substitute for law. Where there are very high levels of repeated interaction between people, policymakers can reduce regulation and then evaluate the emergent social order on a case by case basis. The contribution of the paper to the law and norms literature is that it proposes a practical technique to pinpoint the precise areas of social discourse where the possibility of using social norms as a substitute for law is most feasible and perhaps even more crucially — it highlights precisely where it is not.
Keywords: game theory, social norms, law and norms, public policy, state, government, law
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