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.
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Throughout this paper, the parenthesized references cite the chapter number as well as the page number from the Hackett edition of Beccaria (1764).
It should be noted as well that Bentham acknowledged Beccaria’s influence on his thought, particularly in the chapters of the Principles discussing proportionality in punishment.
I thank an anonymous reviewer for making this point.
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To reiterate his opinion of the lower classes, he wrote that this direct association is “of the utmost importance if one desires to arouse in crude and uneducated minds the idea of punishment with the seductive image of a certain advantageous crime” (XIX: 36–37).
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White, M.D. The neglected nuance of Beccaria’s theory of punishment. Eur J Law Econ 46, 315–329 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10657-016-9530-7
- Cesare Beccaria
- Gary Becker
- Economics of crime