CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Paganelli on Adam Smith on Crime and Punishment

Maria Pia Paganelli (Trinity University) has posted Crime and Punishment: Adam Smith’s Theory of Sentimental Law and Economics (Coauthored with Fabrizio Simon (Universita' di Palermo), Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
 
For Adam Smith a crime is not the result of a rational calculation of loss and gain, but the consequence of envy and a vain desire to parade wealth to attract the approbation of others, combined with a natural systematic bias in overestimating the probability of success. Similarly, Smith does not conceive of legal sanctions as a rational deterrent, but as deriving from the feeling of resentment. While the prevailing approach of the eighteenth century is a rational explanation of crime and a utilitarian use of punishment, Adam Smith instead builds his theory of criminal behavior and legal prosecution consistently on the sentiments. A well-functioning legal system is thus an unintended consequence of our desire to bring justice to the individual person, not the result of a rational calculation to promote the public good, just like a well-functioning economic system is the unintended consequence of our desire to better our own condition, not the result of a rational calculation to promote public good.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2020/11/paganelli-on-adam-smith-on-crime-and-punishment.html

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