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Tag Archives: Economics of Crime

Is a ban on corporate ransom payments feasible?

In some recent posts, I threw out the idea of banning corporations from paying ransomware. I expected the idea to be shot down in the comment section, but I didn’t see any persuasive arguments against the proposal.  In fairness to my commenters, however, most of their arguments were far superior to those offered in a recent Bloomberg article: Consider a simple example. Suppose a state legislature, sick and tired of the number of people being robbed on the street,...

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What about bribery?

This is a follow-up post to my recent proposal for banning corporations from paying ransom. Let’s think about another possible law, enacted to deal with the following scenario. Suppose that a US corporation has the best proposal to build a project in another country. Unfortunately, the government of that country won’t grant the contract unless a bribe is paid to a top official. The victimized company reluctantly pays the bribe, because paying the bribe reduces the...

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Ransom bleg

I’m no expert on extortion, so I’d be interested in what other people think of the following proposed law: Any person found guilty of paying ransom in order to protect corporate assets shall serve a sentence of not less than 20 years in a federal prison. The proximate goal would be to stop US corporations from paying ransom. The ultimate goal would be to reduce attempts to extort ransom. Would such a law make sense?

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The Chauvin Verdict: A Good Start…Or Not

Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges in the heinous murder of George Floyd. It has taken me a couple days to fully process this; although the verdict was correct, it would have been no surprise to me had he been exonerated. I have had friends contact me with exclamations of joy and exultation, but I find that I have not been so moved. Part of me believes this should feel cathartic, as justice that is all too uncommon has been served. The other part of me...

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Self-Interest, Public Good, and the Royal Society of Arts

What happens when individuals can coordinate their actions and efforts to promote interests that aren’t merely personal?  What goals can be achieved and goods can come from the collective efforts of smart and successful people who work to improve the state of a community outside of conventional markets and government?  Anton Howe’s new book Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation opens with a one line dedication “to the public-spirited,” and...

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Redford on Qualified Immunity and Moral Hazard

A few weeks ago, Virginian Audrey Redford, an assistant professor of economics at Western Carolina University, learned that the Virginia House of Delegates solicited open comments on a bill to end qualified immunity in Virginia. The comments would be read aloud to the delegation. So she wrote a comment.  The bill failed by a considerable margin, but she got some satisfaction from knowing that someone read her statement to the delegates. Here it is. Qualified immunity...

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The Economics of Violence: A Short Introduction

The simplistic declarations about violence heard after the “insurrection” of January 6 at the Capitol invite a reflection on the economics of violence. The economist’s starting point is that an individual uses violence when it is in his personal interest to do so—when, given his circumstances and constraints (including subjective moral constraints or the lack thereof), he finds the net expected benefit of violence greater than the net expected benefit of peaceful...

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Criminal Incentives: A Horrible Illustration

Samuel Little, a man who confessed killing 93 women over four decades, died in a California prison in late December” (Hannah Knowles, “Deadliest Serial Killer in American History Dies at 80, with Police Still Searching for his Victims,” Washington Post, December 30, 2020). He illustrated in a horrible way what Nobel-winning economist Gary Becker taught us: criminals are rational in the sense that they respond to incentives; those who are not rational don’t stay long...

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Why a Vast Election Fraud is Highly Implausible

Consider a wide definition of a conspiracy as a secret plan between two parties or more to do something, legal or illegal, that hurts somebody else’s interest for the purpose of furthering their own mutual interests. This definition is close to the dictionary’s (“A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful”), although it focuses less on secrecy. For instance, a firm is a general conspiracy to wage competition against other firms’ interests and it...

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The Anti-Capitalist Dilemma

How do you make a case against capitalism while appearing to defend consumers’ rights and values? You make a movie called The Social Dilemma. The movie is cleverly done. It purports to oppose manipulation by Big Tech of social media users, calling out advertisers who manipulate people for profit. At the same time, the movie engages in its own manipulation. How does it do so? To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways.” These are the opening two...

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