NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines

A. Mitchell Polinsky

NBER Working Paper No. 338 (Also Reprint No. r0171)
Issued in April 1979
NBER Program(s):   LE

The present paper analyzes the competitive, monopolistic, and public enforcement of fines allowing for the costs of enforcement to differ by the choice of the enforcer. There are a number of reasons to expect such differences. First, the benefits from coordinating enforcement -- for example, avoiding duplication of investigative effort and exploiting economies of scale in information processing -- are obtained under public enforcement and monopolistic enforcement, but not under competitive enforcement. Second, the profit motive might be imagined to lead to lower costs under either form of private enforcement relative to public enforcement. Third, when the revenue from fines under public enforcement is not sufficient to finance enforcement costs, there may be a deadweight burden incurred in making up the deficit from other sources. Conversely, if the fine revenue exceeds enforcement costs, the effective cost of enforcement would be lower. On balance, these considerations suggest that monopolistic enforcement may be cheaper than competitive enforcement, but that public enforcement could be more or less expensive than private enforcement.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w0338

Published: Polinsky, A. Mitchell. "Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines." The Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. IX, No. 1, (January 1980), pp. 105-127.

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