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Is There an Expressive Function of Law? An Empirical Analysis of Voting Laws with Symbolic Fines

42 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2005  

Patricia Funk

University of Lugano

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2004

Abstract

I, for the first time, empirically investigate whether passing a law affects behavior even if it is not or hardly enforced (expressive function of law). With Swiss panel data, I find that the legal abolishment of the voting duty significantly decreased average turnout, even though the fines for not voting have only been minimal. As for the size of Cantonal turnout reduction, it widely differs between the Cantons and is highly correlated with voter participation before the abolishment of the voting duty. In contrast to the voting duty, the introduction of postal voting did not affect voter turnout in spite of the substantial decrease in transaction costs. Therefore, in public good areas such as voting, a law targeting at the civic duty (even if hardly enforced) might have a bigger impact on behavior than actions which affect the costs of provision for the public good.

Keywords: Preference-shaping effect of law, expressive function of law, voting behavior

JEL Classification: K00, H00

Suggested Citation

Funk, Patricia, Is There an Expressive Function of Law? An Empirical Analysis of Voting Laws with Symbolic Fines (2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=624504 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.624504

Patricia Funk (Contact Author)

University of Lugano ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, Ticino 6900
Switzerland

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