The Allocation of Prosecution: An Economic Analysis

This Note uses economic theory to reassess the division of prosecutorial tasks between victims and the government for offenses other than victimless offenses. It attempts to answer in a general manner questions such as why the prosecutor should differ from offense to offense and where ,the line should be drawn between governmental and individual prosecution. Work done in the areas of welfare economics and public finance concerning the effectiveness of government and the private sector in providing different sorts of goods is drawn upon heavily. This Note views prosecution as an economic good and a victim’s prosecution of an offender as a market activity. First, it delineates an economic theory of prosecution and constructs two models for distinguishing offenses on the basis of their suitability for public prosecution or for public subsidy of individual prosecution. Then, the conclusions drawn from these models are employed to determine whether five common offenses are better suited for governmental rather than individual prosecution.