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The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death

Isaac Ehrlich ()

No 18, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: The debate over the legitimacy or propriety of the death penalty may be almost as old as the death penalty itself and, in the view of the increasing trend towards its complete abolition, perhaps as outdated. Not surprisingly, and as is generally recognized by contemporary writers on this topic, the philosophical and moral arguments for or against the death penalty have remained remarkably unchanged since the beginning of the debate. One outstanding issue has become, however, the subject of increased investigation, especially in recent years, due to its objective nature and the dominant role it has played in shaping the analytical and practical case against the death penalty. That issue is the deterrent effect of capital punishment, a reexamination of which, in both theory and practice, is the object of the paper.

Date: 1973-11
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Published as This working paper was published under the same title in the American Economic Review, vol. 65 no. 3, June 1975.

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