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Great article Josh. This discussion reminds me of the incentives approach to corruption employed in Singapore. Bribery and graft, once a way of life, was stamped out by raising 1) the risk of being caught 2) the downside of being caught.
Beginning in the early 60s, Singapore expanded police powers to increase the risk of graft, then deepened the punishments to include jail time and financial compensation. They then raised the salaries of civil servants to eliminate the incentives to engage in illegal behavior (part of increasing the downsides of being caught). By all accounts, it worked: https://www.lianeon.org/p/want-clean-and-efficient-govt-pay
A modern economy circulating products and services throughout the world doesn’t need money or sovereign countries (national currencies) to be successful. Today, we’ve the scientific knowledge and technological skills to convert our natural and artificial resources into daily life-sustaining deliverables: food, housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure, and employment demands. What we lack is unity, a global framework built upon fair and humane laws and safe and healthy industrial practices. I hypothesize that humanity can end poverty and reduce pollution by abandoning wealth and property rights, and instead adopt and implement an advanced resource management system that can provide “universal protections for all”. Replacing customary political competition altogether, this type of approach, which I named facts-based representation, allows us a better way to govern ourselves and our communities, basing policy and decision making on the latest information, in turn improving the everyday outcomes impacting our personal and professional lives.
An excellent illustration of how economic analysis ignores the work of other social sciences - eg criminology, sociology, psychology - so misses the basic role of poverty and inequality to crime. And how much of a failure this theoretical economic approach is in reality.
It's useful to illustrate the way economic analysis can isolate and suggest ways to structure or reform certain aspects of the criminal justice system. But I think the analysis should explicitly acknowledge that in taking economic reasoning out of the area of markets there is the possibility that a different area of application will include elements not subject to that sort of analysis.
For example, when applied to the criminal justice system, economic analysis will have a difficult time dealing with "justice": what it means, how it's construed by different social actors, and how it affects the way the purposes of the system are designed and its performance assessed. Concepts such as guilt and innocence are not simple (there are degrees of each that may concern complex contexts, factors enhancing or diminishing responsibility), and factors such as state of mind, contrition, rehabilitation, and social assessments of fairness all play roles that require separate stages of analysis, each of which may include elements that are not satisfyingly reduced to cost/benefit. That is why criminal justice systems often ask juries to consider many factors in rendering verdicts that may include a number of options, and provide both prosecutors and judges with considerable leeway in crafting individually designed charges and sentences. These features of criminal justice systems are empirical outcomes reflecting long feedback loops between the operation of the systems and the judgments of the societies on whose behalf they operate.
I think that a justice system designed to produce the optimal cost/benefit outcome is likely to be based on empirical data far more attuned to complex social values, and these are always shifting as politics and public discourse help drive them. The usefulness of an economic analysis such as this one would be enhanced, I think, by framing it as one tool among many, rather than as an analytic model adequate for completing the actual task.
Original headings were at plural, in 🇫🇷. Maybe we are more pessimistic about mankind