Is There an Expressive Function of Law? An Empirical Analysis of Voting Laws with Symbolic Fines
42 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2005
Date Written: 2004
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: Suggested Citation