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The Thief of TimePhilosophical Essays on Procrastination$
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Chrisoula Andreou and Mark D. White

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195376685

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195376685.001.0001

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Procrastination and the Law

Procrastination and the Law

(p.253) 15 Procrastination and the Law
The Thief of Time

Manuel A. Utset

Oxford University Press

This chapter develops a model of repeated procrastination that can be used to examine the efficacy of legal rules. The model yields the following counterintuitive result: if the immediate costs of committing a crime are sufficiently great, a subset of people who, from a long-term perspective, believe that violating the law is economically worthwhile will nonetheless repeatedly procrastinate about following through. This phenomenon of “time-inconsistent obedience” helps explain an important puzzle in criminal law: the fact that people routinely obey the law even though the benefits of misconduct greatly exceed the expected sanctions. The chapter also argues that nonbenevolent lawmakers can engage in “stealth regulation” by exploiting people’s propensity to procrastinate. For example, under the model, even relatively low hurdles for getting abortions, such as a 24-hour waiting period, can have a disproportionate impact in reducing the number of abortions.

Keywords:   abortion, behavioral law and economics, criminal law, jurisprudence, procrastination, self-control problems, time-inconsistent preferences

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