Public Law Enforcers and Political Competition

Eric Langlais (EconomiX CNRS University Paris Ouest Nanterre)
Marie Obidzinski (Université Paris II, CRED)

Abstract: In this paper, we analyze how political competition affects the design of public law enforcement policies. The article arrives at two main conclusions (assuming that the cost of enforcement is linear, criminal typology is uniformly distributed, and the society is wealthy enough): 1) electoral competition entails no loss of efficiency at equilibrium for both minor and major offenses (e.g. minor offenses are not enforced, while major ones are fully deterred); 2) distortions arises at equilibrium only in the range of intermediate offenses: enforcement expenditure for minor offenses is lower than at optimal level, such that the issue of under -deterrence is exacerbated; in contrast, for more serious offenses, enforcement measures are higher, and there is more (possibly, over) deterrence as compared to what efficiency requires. We show that these results also generalize under more general assumptions, except that full deterrence of major offenses is not achievable (a less wealthy society), or enforcement expenditure is bounded above (under convex enforcement costs).

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