The Robber Wants To Be Punished

Uri Weiss

It is a commonly held intuition that increasing punishment leads to less crime. Let's move our glance from the punishment for the crime itself to the punishment for the attempt to commit a crime, or to the punishment for the threat to carry it out. We'll argue that the greater the punishment for the attempt to rob, i.e. for the threat, "give me your money or elseā€¦", the greater the number of robberies and attempts there will be. The punishment for the threat makes the withdrawal from it more expensive for the criminal, making the relative cost of committing the crime lower. In other words, the punishment of the attempt turns the attempt into a commitment by the robber, while at the same time turning an incredible threat into a credible one. Therefore, the robber has a strong interest in a legal system that increases the punishment of the attempt.

May, 2015