Title

Deterrence of Wrongdoing in Ancient Law

Publication

Roman Law and Economics: Volume II: Exchange, Ownership, and Disputes

Year

2020

Abstract

Ancient laws addressed all types of wrongdoing with a single set of remedies that over time pursued a changing mix of retaliatory, punitive and compensatory objectives. In this paper, we consider the historical transition from retaliatory to punitive justice, and the subsequent transition from punitive to compensatory justice. This paper shows how the optimal level of enforcement varies under the three corrective regimes. Crimes that create a larger net social loss require lower levels of enforcement under retaliatory regimes. The optimal level of enforcement is instead independent of the degree of inefficiency of the crime when punitive and compensatory remedies are utilized. The paper provides several historical illustrations and sheds light on some of the legal paradoxes of ancient law.

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