The Imprisoner's Dilemma: The Political Economy of Proportionate Punishment




D'Amico, Daniel J.

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What punishment theorists have termed “proportionality”- where the response to crime is well-suited to the crime itself - I frame as a problem of economic coordination. Providing criminal justice proportionately is a task of social coordination that must confront both knowledge and incentive problems simultaneously. This dissertation begins by surveying the potential for cross-disciplinary work in the economic-sociology of criminal punishment. Next I analyze today's criminal punishment system on two margins: it's ability to overcome Hayekian knowledge problems and its ability to avoid Public Choice-styled rent-seeking and capture. I conclude that centrally-planned criminal justice institutions are ineffective at solving knowledge and incentive problems to produce proportionate punishments. I argue that markets tend to promote proportionate allocations of goods and services in similar fashions as the term proportionality is used by criminal justice theorists. In this sense there is good reason to believe that market provided criminal justice services would better satisfy the ends of proportionality compared to central-planning.



Proportionate punishment, Criminal justice, Prison, Economics, Knowledge, Incentives