Seminar 3: Economics of Crime and Tort

In this seminar we look at the Chicago School of Law and Economics. This is the mainstream approach and features in the bulk of the papers on law and economics that have been published. As you will note the key elements are similar in both the crime and the tort analysis.

The seminar will discuss the papers.

In addition, consider also the following (and feel free to write a comment at the foot of this posting if you wish):

  • Why are some wrongs punished by both criminal law and tort law? for example a reckless driver who injures a pedestrian may be sued for damages and be jailed for the same act which is both a crime and a tort. Is it inefficient to have both rules in place?
  • Normally tort law imposes liability for negligence (why?).  In contrast, in contract law liability for breach is strict – why should this be so?

On crime, read one of these two papers by Becker

Becker ‘The Economic Way of Looking at Life’ (1992), available online here:

Becker ‘Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach’ (1968) 76 Journal of Political Economy 169 (you can skip the algebra and focus on the intuitions behind the argument)(link)


Gneezy and Rustichini ‘A Fine is A Price’ (2000) 29 Journal of Legal Studies 1 (link)

On tort, read:

Cooter & Ulen  Law and Economics Chapter 8 (link)

Optional additional source
Polinsky, A. M. and Shavell, S. (2006). Public enforcement of law. In The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (link)


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