Public Choice

, Volume 159, Issue 1–2, pp 277–298

The law & economics of private prosecutions in industrial revolution England



Can the market provide law enforcement? This paper addresses this question by analyzing an historical case study: the system of private prosecutions that prevailed in England prior to the introduction of the police. I examine why this system came under strain during the Industrial Revolution, and how private clubs emerged to internalize the externalities that caused the private system to generate too little deterrence. The historical evidence suggests that these private order institutions were partially successful in ameliorating the problem of crime in a period when public choice considerations precluded the introduction of a professional police force.


Economics of crime Private prosecutions Club goods Deterrence Free-riding 

JEL Classification

K14 N43 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Public Choice and the Mercatus CenterGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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