Giving Reasons as a Means to Enhance Compliance with Legal Norms
University of Toronto Law Journal (Forthcoming)
43 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2021 Last revised: 11 Oct 2021
Date Written: July 25, 2021
The threat of sanctions is often insufficient to ensure compliance with legal norms. Recently, much attention has been given to nudges as a means to influence behavior without sanctions; but nudges are often ineffective and controversial. This Article explores the provision of information about the reasons underlying legal norms, as a means to enhance compliance.
While the idea that legal norms should be accompanied by explanatory preambles, to complement the law’s threat of sanctions with persuasion, goes back to Plato, this technique is not commonly used nowadays, and scholars have failed to systematically consider this possibility. The article argues that reason-giving can enhance compliance and reduce the need for costly enforcement mechanisms. The theoretical part of the article first describes the mechanisms through which reasons may influence people’s behavior. It then distinguishes between reason giving as a means to enhance compliance and as a means to attain other goals, and between reason giving and related means to enhance compliance. Finally, it discusses various policy and pragmatic considerations that bear on the use of reason giving. Following the theoretical discussion, the empirical part of the article uses vignette studies to demonstrate the feasibility and efficacy of the reason-giving technique.
Keywords: Compliance, nudges, reason giving, legal norms, experimental legal studies
JEL Classification: K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation