Friday, August 10, 2012

Law Enforcement and Reputation

“The Government and the Governed”

The government’s role is to make sure that each citizen “will be forced to be free”
–Rousseau, 1762/1950, The Social Contract, p18

A government must elicit compliance from the majority of the governed…[which] requires setting and enforcing the rules so that it pays for most of the governed to obey most of the time.

A government must deter its citizens from breaking the law. For example, to collect taxes effectively, a government must maintain a reputation for prosecuting tax evaders. The government often spends far more investigating and prosecuting evaders than it acquires from the penalties levied against them. The government’s goal, of course, is to maintain a reputation for catching and prosecuting evaders to deter anyone contemplating tax evasion in the future. And what is true for tax collection is also true for many forms of policing: the key to maintaining compliant behavior from the citizenry is that the government remains able and willing to devote resources far out of proportion to the stakes of the current issue in order to maintain its reputation for toughness. (p155)

The Evolution of Cooperation 
Robert Axelrod, 1984
revised edition w foreword by R. Dawkins, 2006

for further talk and controversial ideas against axelrod's theory, see this Edge conversation:
William H. Press,  Freeman Dyson [6.18.12]

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