The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Law, Public Enforcement of

  • Mitchell Polinsky
  • Steven Shavell
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-349-95189-5_2745

Abstract

This article surveys the economic analysis of public enforcement of law – the use of public agents (inspectors, tax auditors, police, prosecutors) to detect and to sanction violators of legal rules. We first discuss the basic elements of the theory: the probability of imposition of sanctions, the magnitude and form of sanctions (fines, imprisonment), and the rule of liability. We then examine a variety of extensions, including the costs of imposing fines, mistakes, marginal deterrence, settlement, self-reporting, repeat offences, and incapacitation.

Keywords

Audits Becker, G Bentham, J Bribery Corruption Criminal law Deterrence Efficiency wages Fairness Fault-based liability Fines Harm Imprisonment Incapacitation Principal and agent Public enforcement of law Safety regulations Sanctions Self-reporting Settlements Social norms Strict liability Time discount rates 
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Notes

Acknowledgments

A. Mitchell Polinsky’s research was supported by the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at Stanford Law School. Steven Shavell’s research was supported by the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business at Harvard Law School.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mitchell Polinsky
    • 1
  • Steven Shavell
    • 1
  1. 1.