Professor Miceli Publishes The Paradox of Punishment

Book Cover: The Paradox of Punishment Reflections on the Economics of Criminal JusticeProfessor Thomas Miceli has published The Paradox of Punishment: Reflections on the Economics of Criminal Justice.

From the publisher:

This book explores the insights that can be gained by looking at the criminal justice system from an economic point of view. It provides an economic analysis of the institutional structure and function of the criminal justice system, how its policies are formulated, and how they affect behavior.

Yet it goes beyond an examination of specific policies to address the broad question of how law influences behavior. For example, it examines how concepts such as the possibility of redemption affect the decisions of repeat offenders, and whether individual responsibility is (or should be) a pre-requisite for punishment. Finally, the book argues that, in addition to the threat of criminal sanctions, law inculcates principles of acceptable behavior among citizens by asserting that certain acts are “against the law.” This “expressive function” of law can influence behavior to the extent that at least some people in society are receptive to such a message. For these people, the moral content of law has more than mere symbolic value, and consequently, it can expand the scope of traditional law enforcement while lowering its cost.

Another goal of the book is therefore to use economic theory to assess this dualistic function of law by specifically recognizing how its policies can both internalize an ethic of obedience to the law among some people irrespective of its consequences, while simultaneously threatening to punish those who only respond to external incentives.



Professor Miceli Publishes Law and Economics: Private and Public

Law and Economics: Private and Public, a coursebook by Professor Thomas Miceli and co-authors, is now available. From the publisher:

This accessible volume integrates wide-ranging economic methodologies with a vast array of legal subjects. Coverage includes the first-year law school curriculum along with institutions and doctrines comprising the core foundation of upper level legal study. Dedicated chapters introduce neoclassical economics, interest group theory, social choice, and game theory, and the book intersperses alternative methodological insights.

The analysis synthesizes these methodologies with modern and classic case law, other legal materials, and policy discussions inspired by current events. Ideal for a law school seminar or capstone course, this unique volume is also perfectly suited for business school courses on legal methods and public policy. Professors will find a rich array of materials adaptable to varying pedagogical styles and substantive areas of emphasis. Students exploring these materials will emerge with a deeper understanding of law and economics and a greater appreciation of our lawmaking institutions.


Professor Miceli’s Contemporary Issues in Law and Economics

Routledge has just published Contemporary Issues in Law and Economics by Thomas J. Miceli.

Law and economics is the field of study devoted to understanding laws and legal institutions using the tools of economic theory. This growing subject has become a mainstream area of study in both law schools and economics departments and this book explores the “law and economics” approach to some of the most interesting questions, issues, and topics in law, order, and justice.

Contemporary Issues in Law and Economics considers what economists call the “positive” analysis of the law – that is, using economic theory to explain the nature of the law as it actually exists. As part of this approach the author examines questions such as, what is the economic basis for the predominance of negligence rules in tort law? And, what is the explanation for the illegality of blackmail? Furthermore, another set of questions arises where the law seems to depart from the prescriptions of economic theory, and these issues are also examined in this volume. For example, the deeply rooted norm of proportionality between punishments and crimes, and the use of escalating penalties for repeat offenders, are both explored.

With self-contained chapters written in a non-technical style, this book offers a rigorous discussion of the above themes while remaining accessible to those without formal legal or economic training. It offers the ideal introduction to the field of law and economics while also providing a basis for students in more advanced courses.


Professor Miceli’s The Economic Approach to Law, Third Edition

Stanford University Press has just published the third edition of Thomas J. Miceli’s Law and Economics textbook.

From the publisher:

“Master teacher Thomas J. Miceli provides an introduction to law and economics that reveals how economic principles can explain the structure of the law and make it more efficient.

The third edition of this seminal textbook is thoroughly updated to include recent cases and the latest scholarship, with particular attention paid to torts, contracts, property rights, and the economics of crime. A new chapter organization, ideal for quarter- or semester-long courses, strengthens the book’s focus on unifying themes in the field.

As Miceli tells a cohesive, analytical “story” about law from a distinctly economic perspective, exercises and problems encourage students to deepen their knowledge.”

The Economic Approach to Law, Third Edition

Professors Miceli and Segerson Cited in The Economist

micelisegersonAn article on land assembly in developing countries published in the May 2nd-8th 2015 edition of The Economist cited a paper by economics professors Thomas Miceli and Kathleen Segerson. The article discusses problems developing countries face in assembling land for large-scale economic development projects.

The author writes, “A theoretical model set out in a paper published in 2011 by Thomas Miceli and Kathleen Segerson of the University of Connecticut shows that when a buyer has to negotiate in sequence with sellers of contiguous plots of land, the price of each successive sale will rise. Landowners know the project cannot proceed unless the buyer acquires all the plots he needs. The more he acquires, the greater the cost of abandoning the project. The ransom those yet to sell can demand increases accordingly.”

The article referred to is “Land Assembly and the Holdout Problem Under Sequential Bargaining,” which was published in the American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 14 (2012): 372-390.

Profs. Hallwood and Miceli Complete Manuscript

Uconn sealProfessors Paul Hallwood and Thomas Miceli have just completed the manuscript of their book, Maritime Piracy and its Control: An Economic Analysis, which will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan. A brief synopsis follows:

Piracy is the oldest international crime, and in international law pirates are regarded as the ‘enemies of mankind’. While prevalent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, piracy has not gone away. Today it primarily afflicts the waters off two continents – East and West Africa and Southeast Asian. It is a serious threat to international shipping, and it imposes high financial costs as well as costs in terms of human life and welfare.  Over the last ten years 3,000 or more pirate attacks, actual or attempted, have been reported, with annual costs estimated to be in the range of $6 billion to $7 billion.

The application of economic theory to maritime piracy is a direct application of the economic theory of law enforcement, and relies on two fundamental principles: first, that pirates behave rationally in the sense that they respond to threatened sanctions in deciding whether or not to commit illegal acts, and second, that an enforcement authority (whether under the control of a single government or a coalition of governments) stands ready to enforce those sanctions. With respect to the first of these claims, there is considerable evidence that domestic offenders do in fact respond to threatened punishments.  As for modern-day pirates, the huge material gain that they can earn from their criminal activity is surely an important objective, notwithstanding claims that Somali pirates are acting in response to overfishing and other unfair practices by foreign agents in Somali waters.

As to enforcement, we offer several reasons for the apparent insufficiency of enforcement efforts against maritime piracy. These include the public good nature of law enforcement in general; the high cost of detaining, prosecuting, and incarcerating pirates; and inconsistent (or in some cases non-existent) national laws against piracy. To understand why these problems have been allowed to persist, we examine the main features of international law that governs the conduct of nations, and conclude by reviewing several proposals that have been made for improving international enforcement efforts.  Our hope is that the application of economic theory to maritime piracy will lead to a better understanding of the nature of the problem while improving the quality of the debate regarding alternative responses.

Econ Dept. Well-Represented in Oxford Handbook of Land Economics

Three Department of Economics faculty members have published papers in the recently released Oxford Handbook of Land Economics, edited by Joshua Duke and Junjie Wu. The Oxford Handbook Series is a collection of specialized volumes, each containing papers from a particular area of economic research.

A chapter on “Regulatory Takings,” by Professors Thomas Miceli and Kathleen Segerson, offers a more general analysis of government actions that reduce private property values, pointing out that the difference between these partial “takings” and outright seizures of private property is largely a matter of degree.  Their model offers a unified approach to the wide variety of issues associated with zoning, environmental and safety regulations, historic landmark designation, requirements to provide access for the disabled, and many other public restrictions on private land use.  In addition to their economic analysis, they review key elements of the case law and legal literature on regulatory takings.

In another chapter, titled “Open Space Preservation: Direct Controls and Fiscal Incentives,” Professor Dennis Heffley and his co-author Ekaterina Gnedenko (Lecturer, Tufts University) review the economic literature on various types of land use controls, especially programs designed to protect and preserve open space.  They also develop and simulate a model showing that state grants to local governments, intended to reduce local fiscal pressure to permit more development, may actually result in more land being zoned for development and a reduction in open space.  An econometric analysis of fiscal data and satellite-image land use data for Connecticut towns further attests to the policy problem illustrated by the simulations

Professor Miceli speaks to UConn Alumni about the Economics of Sports

Professor Tom Miceli presented a lecture on “The Economics of Professional Sports” to the UConn Alumni Association of Greater Hartford on Tuesday, February 7, at Rentschler Field.  The motivation for the talk was the recent movie Moneyball, which described how the Oakland Athletics used computer technology to assemble a winning team using players who had been overlooked by other teams.  Professor Miceli described how the labor market for professional baseball players works, and how the Athletics were able to identify and sign players who had been undervalued by the market.  He also pointed out that this innovation only provided the Athletics a temporary advantage because other teams quickly copied their strategy by hiring their own computer analysts.  In fact, Professor Miceli argued that the quick diffusion of new ideas—like the use of computers or the signing of international players—is desirable from the league’s perspective because it prevents teams from gaining a long-term advantage, which would undermine the goal of maintaining competitive balance.

Thomas Miceli publishes “The Economic Theory of Eminent Domain: Private Property, Public Use”

Professor Thomas Miceli’s latest book, “The Economic Theory of Eminent Domain: Private Property, Public Use”, has just been published by Cambridge University Press.  A brief description of the contents of the book is as follows:

This book surveys the contributions that economic theory has made to the often contentious debate over the government’s use of its power of eminent domain, as prescribed by the Fifth Amendment. It addresses such questions as: When should the government be allowed to take private property without the owner’s consent? Does it depend on how the land will be used? And what amount of compensation is the landowner entitled to receive (if any)? The recent case of Kelo v. New London (2005) revitalized the debate, but it was only the latest skirmish in the ongoing struggle between advocates of strong governmental powers to acquire private property in the public interest and private property rights advocates. Written for a general audience, the book advances a coherent theory that views eminent domain within the context of the government’s proper role in an economic system whose primary objective is to achieve efficient land use.