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Social Welfare and the Benefits to Crime

Phil Curry and Matthew Doyle

No 1205, Working Papers from University of Waterloo, Department of Economics

Abstract: There exists a large literature on the optimal deterrence of crime. Within the literature, however, there exists a controversy over what the appropriate criterion to determine optimality should be. While the most popular method is that of maximization of a utilitarian welfare function, another criterion sometimes used is that of cost minimization. The controversy stems from the question of whether the benefits to crime enjoyed by criminals ought to be included in the welfare analysis. This paper argues that the controversy is an artifact of the fact that the standard model restricts a potential criminal's choice to one of committing a crime or doing nothing. We show that when potential criminals are given the additional choice of achieving their ends through voluntary methods that maximizing the sum of utilities is in fact equivalent to minimizing the costs of crime. The model developed also provides explanations for sanctions that increase in one's criminal history and why necessity may be a partial defense.

JEL-codes: D6 H0 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 26 pages
Date: 2012-07, Revised 2012-07
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-law and nep-mic
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1)

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