private enforcement of public laws

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 07 Aug 1998 10:39:54 -0700

The May 1998 issue of the American Economic Review (the most prestigious economics journal) has on pp. 398-402 a short article by J. Hay and A. Shleifer on "Private Enforcement of Public Laws: A Theory of Legal Reform."

They basically argue that public law enforcement is terrible in Russia now, and that Russia should try to rely mostly on private law enforcement in the near future. The reason is that private parties have much better incentives than public officials to enforce well.

Of course they also claim without explanation that "public enforcement is surely the ultimate goal of any legal reform." And even though they also admit that public officials have done a terrible job at defining law, they think private enforcement should be of publicly defined laws, because such laws "have a degree of legitimacy that private rules do not," and because they for some reason think privatley created rules are not publicly visible to serve as coordination points.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627