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January 12, 2007

Landes and Posner on the economics of pardons

Thanks to this post a Legal Theory Blog, I see that William Landes and Richard Posner have posted a paper titled "The Economics of Presidential Pardons and Commutations" at SSRN here.  Here is the abstract:

This paper develops a simple economic model of the demand for and supply of presidential pardons (including commutations and other clemency grants). The model assumes that the number of pardon applications depends on the expected benefits and costs of applying and the number of pardons depends on the president's calculation of his net political benefits from approving an application. This yields an equilibrium number of applications and pardons that can be estimated from time series data over the 1900 to 2005 period. Overall, the regression results support the model. For example, we find that the likelihood of receiving a pardon has a positive effect on applications; and that increases in the number of persons paroled (a substitute for a pardon) and in the time from conviction to pardon (which lowers the benefits of a pardon) reduces the number of applications. We also observe a positive time trend in applications that corresponds to the increase in the number of federal prisoners (and persons released from prison) that make up the pool of potential pardon applicants. With respect to the number of pardons, we find that democratic presidents (who we expect to be less tough on crime) are more likely to grant pardons; that the crime rate has a negative impact on pardons; and that the number of pardons increased during Prohibition and during wartime and postwar periods.

Though I am intrigued and pleased to see Landis and Posner applying economic models to some sentencing decision-making, I would be more excited if their energies were devoted to more common decisions like, say, judicial sentencing decisions in white-collar cases or in sex offender cases.

January 12, 2007 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

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Comments

An example of why Posner is overrated and self-inflated: read U.S. v. Spano et al (2005). It's a case about corruption in the town of Cicero, Illinois. But in this era. What does Posner discuss, in a day when Hispanics are largely the majority in that town, and, of course, to justify the white-collar over-sentencing? The Al-Capone tradition in Cicero, and, a fortiori, that mantle as worn by the defendants in circa 2000.

Posted by: Fluffy Rosini | Jan 12, 2007 6:32:06 AM

I was wondering if it would get into the financial economics as well. The Clintonistas seemed to make off pretty well with the pardons they sold.

Posted by: Awc | Jan 13, 2007 8:59:12 PM

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