On Beccaria, the Economics of Crime, and the Philosophy of Punishment

Mark D. White


This paper explores the influence of Cesare Beccaria's "On Crime and Punishments" on economists who study criminal behavior and the criminal law, particularly in the area of punishment, paying close attention to the aspects of Beccaria's thought that economists missed. The paper begins with a discussion of their shared utilitarianism, emphasizing Beccaria’s greater psychological depth. Next, it discusses the different ways they emphasize the proportionality of punishment. Finally, it explores Beccaria’s approach to deterrence, which is more complex than that found in the economics of crime, and also his embrace of some tenets of retributivism, which I believe economists would do well to emulate.


Beccaria, Cesare; economics; crime; punishment; deterrence; retributivism; law and economics;

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.4454/philinq.v2i2.94


  • There are currently no refbacks.