Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Justification and Legitimate Punishment

Xiao, Erte and Tan, Fangfang (2013): Justification and Legitimate Punishment.

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Abstract

Punishment can lose its legitimacy if the enforcer can profit from delivering punishment. We use a controlled laboratory experiment to examine how justification can combat profit-seeking punishment and promote the legitimacy of punishment. In a one-shot sender-receiver game, an independent third party can punish the sender upon seeing whether the sender has told the truth. Most third parties punish the senders regardless of how the senders behave when they can profit from punishment. However, majority third parties punish the sender if and only if the sender lies when they have to provide explanations for their punishment decisions. Our data also suggests that senders are more likely to perceive punishment as legitimate and behave honestly when they know the enforcer has to justify their punishment decisions. Our findings suggest that justification requirement plays an important role in building efficient punishment institutions.

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