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The Limits of Punishment: Of Angels and Bad Men

  • Thomas J. MiceliEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

The chapter explores the limits of criminal punishment as a means of regulating conduct by introducing the role of law in communicating unacceptable behaviors to members of society. This “expressive function” of law can expand the reach of law if least some members of the population are responsive to the idea that disobeying the law is itself wrong or immoral, regardless of the consequences. The chapter examines the implications of this moral dimension of law for the optimal scope of rulemaking and the structure of punishments. It turns out that an increase in the fraction of reflexive law-abiders may make it desirable to expand or contract the scope of law; that is, morality can either be a complement or substitute for the threat of punishment.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ConnecticutStorrs MansfieldUSA

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