Regulating harmless activity to fight crime
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This paper establishes that regulating harmless activity can be an effective instrument of law enforcement when the harmless activity and the harmful activity are interdependent. This type of regulation is not without cost, as it distorts the individual choices made by both law-abiding and non-law-abiding individuals. However, it can be socially advantageous when the impact on welfare resulting from changes in the choices of offenders dominates the impact of changes in non-offenders’ decisions; in addition, increasing deterrence by other means (such as raising the probability of detection or the magnitude of sanctions) can incur much higher costs.
KeywordsOptimal law enforcement Legal activity Substitutes Complements
JEL ClassificationK42 H23
We are grateful for the very helpful suggestions provided by two anonymous reviewers.
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