Social Desirability Bias vs. Punishment

Source: EconLog
by Bryan Caplan

“I break unjust laws all the time. Though I’m proud of my law-breaking, I don’t claim to be especially courageous. News flash: I’d rather live on my knees than die on my feet. After all, I’ve got a lot to live for. Why then do I choose to be a righteous scofflaw? Because the expected punishment for breaking the kinds of laws I break is very low. Government enforcement is rare, and even if I get caught, the sanction will probably be mild. Which raises a puzzling question: Why are so many laws backed by such trivial punishments? If politicians think that a law is worth passing, why don’t they automatically conclude that it’s worth assiduously enforcing?” (10/06/21)