Caught in the Act but not Punished: on Elite Rule of Law and Deterrence
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionPenn State Journal of Law & International Affairs 2016, 4(2):686-717
Most literature on criminal deterrence in law, economics, and criminology assumes that people who are caught for a crime will be punished. The literature focuses on how the size of sanctions and probability of being caught affect criminal behavior. However, in many countries entire groups of people are “above the law” in the sense that they are able to evade punishment even if caught violating the law. In this paper we argue that both the perceived probability of being punished if caught and the cultural acceptance of elites evading punishment are important parts of theorizing about deterrence, particularly about corruption among political elites. Looking at data on parking violations among diplomats in New York City 1997–2002, we explore how diplomats from different rule-of-law cultures respond to sudden legal immunity. The empirical observations provide clear evidence of both the stickiness and the gradual weakening of cultural constraints.