NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Specific Versus General Enforcement of Law

Steven Shavell

NBER Working Paper No. 3062
Issued in August 1989
NBER Program(s):   LE

The problem of optimal public enforcement of law is examined in a model in which two types of enforcement effort are distinguished: specific enforcement effort, activity devoted to apprehending and penalizing individuals who have committed a single type of harmful act; and general enforcement effort, activity affecting the likelihood of apprehension of individuals who have committed any of a range of harmful acts. (A policeman on the beat, for instance, is able to apprehend many types of violators of law.) If all enforcement effort is specific, then under wide assumptions it is optimal for sanctions to be extreme for all acts. However, if all enforcement effort is general, optimal sanctions are low for acts of small harmfulness, increase with the degree of harmfulness, and reach the extreme only for the most harmful acts (the main result of the paper). Also considered is the assumption that enforcement effort may be both general and specific.

download in pdf format
   (225 K)

download in djvu format
   (180 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (225 K) or DjVu (180 K) (Download viewer) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w3062

Published: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 99, no. 5 (1991): 1088-1108.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Polinsky and Shavell w3429 Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines
Stigler The Optimum Enforcement of Laws
Polinsky and Shavell w11780 The Theory of Public Enforcement of Law
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us