Comment on paper by Anthony Ogus and Carolyn Abbot

Published date15 August 2002
Date15 August 2002
AuthorRichard L. Revesz
Richard L. Revesz
Anthony Ogus and Carolyn Abbot present a lucid and informative analysis of
the choice between civil and criminal environmental enforcement. The picture
that emerges from their theoretical model and empirical data is troubling: under
almost any plausible scenario, there appears to be under-enforcement of the
environmental laws in England and Wales, principally because the penalties for
non-compliance are far lower than the economic benefit that accrues to
This comment addresses three issues. First, the role that stigma plays in the
enforcement model deserves some careful scrutiny. As Ogus and Abbot explain,
the stigma that attaches to environmental violators can have important
deterrent effects. As a result, it can mitigate the effects of economic penalties
that are too low (particularly penalties that are smaller than the economic benefit
received by the violator) and prosecutions that are too infrequent. But stigma
is a function of the context surrounding the imposition of liability. Ogus and
Abbot would like to move from criminal to civil enforcement, and from low
penalties to higher penalties. What effect are these two changes likely to have
on the deterrent effect of stigma? It might be, for example, that stigma is greater
when the violation is criminal rather than civil: The public might view
criminal violations as morally more blameworthy. On the other hand, it might
be that stigma increases with the size of the financial penalty: Regardless of
An Introduction to the Law and Economics of Environmental Policy: Issues in Institutional
Design, Volume 20, pages 517-518.
Copyright © 2002 by Elsevier Science Ltd.
AH rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
ISBN: 0-7623-0888-5

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