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Do Explicit Reasons Make Legal Intervention More Effective? An Experimental Study

Christoph Engel () and Lilia Zhurakhovska ()
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Lilia Zhurakhovska: Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn

No 2013_16, Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods from Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Abstract: When judges or public authorities intervene in citizens’ lives, they normally must give explicit reasons. Justification primarily serves the sense of justice. The law’s subjects want to understand the intervention. But does justification also have a forward-looking effect? Are individuals more likely to change their behavior in the legally desired direction if the intervention is accompanied by explanation? And do authorities correctly anticipate the effect? To answer these questions under controlled conditions, we use a standard tool from experimental economics. We introduce central punishment to a public goods experiment. In the Baseline, authorities are requested to justify punishment decisions, but the reasons are kept confidential. In the Private treatment, only the addressee learns the justification. In the Public treatment, reasons are made public. Whenever reasons are communicated, there is less monetary punishment. Experimental authorities partly substitute words for action. Yet this is only effective, in the sense of mitigating the dilemma, if reasons are made public.

Keywords: justification requirement; governance effect; public good; experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D03 D62 D63 H41 K14 K40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-cdm and nep-exp
Date: 2013-08, Revised 2018-03
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