European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 315–329 | Cite as

The neglected nuance of Beccaria’s theory of punishment

  • Mark D. WhiteEmail author


Cesare Beccaria is widely acknowledged by the pioneers of the economics of crime as an important influence on their work, especially in terms of deterrence and proportionality of punishment. However, there is much more nuance to Beccaria’s writings that economists can learn from, including a unique psychological point of view that predates behavioral law-and-economics, as well as aspects of his prescriptions regarding criminal penalties that resemble retributivism, a theory of punishment often contrasted with deterrence. A deeper appreciation of Beccaria’s work may result in a richer and more humanistic economic approach to crime.


Cesare Beccaria Gary Becker Punishment Economics of crime Deterrence Retributivism Psychology Philosophy 

JEL Classification

K14 K42 A13 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Staten IslandStaten IslandUSA

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