November 13, 2005
Noteworthy NBER Reports
Debiasing through Law
by Christine Jolls, Cass R. Sunstein - #11738
Abstract: In many settings, human beings are boundedly rational. A distinctive and insufficiently explored legal response to bounded rationality is to attempt to "debias through law," by steering people in more rational directions. In many important domains, existing legal analyses emphasize the alternative approach of insulating outcomes from the effects of boundedly rational behavior, often through blocking private choices. In fact, however, a large number of actual and imaginable legal strategies are efforts to engage in the very different approach of debiasing through law by reducing or even eliminating people's boundedly rational behavior. In important contexts, these efforts to debias through law can avoid the costs and inefficiencies associated with regulatory approaches that take bounded rationality as a given and respond by attempting to insulate outcomes from its effects. This paper offers a general account of how debiasing through law does or could work to address legal questions across a range of areas, from consumer safety law to corporate law to property law. Discussion is also devoted to the risks of government manipulation and overshooting that are sometimes raised when debiasing through law is employed.
Underground Gun Markets
by Philip J. Cook, Jens Ludwig, Sudhir Venkatesh, Anthony A. Braga - #11737
Abstract: This paper provides an economic analysis of underground gun markets drawing on interviews with gang members, gun dealers, professional thieves, prostitutes, police, public school security guards and teens in the city of Chicago, complemented by results from government surveys of recent arrestees in 22 cities plus administrative data for suicides, homicides, robberies, arrests and confiscated crime guns. We find evidence of considerable frictions in the underground market for guns in Chicago. We argue that these frictions are due primarily to the fact that the underground gun market is both illegal and "thin" -- the number of buyers, sellers and total transactions is small and relevant information is scarce. Gangs can help overcome these market frictions, but the gang's economic interests cause gang leaders to limit supply primarily to gang members, and even then transactions are usually loans or rentals with strings attached.
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