November 2006 Vol. 105 No. 2 THE REVIEW

"Eggshell" Victims, Private Precautions, and the Societal Benefits of Shifting Crime

Robert A. Mikos

Individuals spend billions of dollars every year on precautions to protect themselves from crime. Yet the legal academy has criticized many private precautions because they merely shift crime onto other, less guarded citizens, rather than reduce crime. The conventional wisdom likens such precaution-taking to rent-seeking: citizens spend resources to shift crime losses onto other victims, without reducing the size of those losses to society. The result is an unambiguous reduction in social welfare. This Article argues that the conventional wisdom is flawed because it overlooks how the law systematically understates the harms suffered by some victims of crime, first, by ignoring some types of harm altogether in grading and sentencing decisions, and second, by ignoring wide disparities in the amount of harm caused in individual cases. It follows that the same “crime”, as defined by the law, may inflict significantly different amounts of harm on different victims, and by aggregation, on society. Thus it cannot be safely assumed that displacing a given crime from one citizen to the next is necessarily wasteful, from a social point of view. Indeed, this Article argues that shifting crime may be beneficial to society, from an economic point of view, since eggshell victims—those who are harmed more by crime—tend to take more precautions. The implication is that private crime fighting efforts that displace crime—universally criticized in the literature—may be more socially useful than previously acknowledged. The Article concludes by discussing how this insight impacts the ongoing debates over the regulation of precaution-taking.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

Cultivating Inclusion

Twenty-five years ago, law schools were in the developing stages of a pitched battle for the future of legal...

Aftermarketfailure: Windows XP's End of Support

"After 12 years, support for Windows XP will end on April 8, 2014." So proclaims a Microsoft website with...

Globally Speaking—Honoring the Victims' Stories: Matsuda's Human Rights Praxis

Globally speaking, international law and the vast majority of domestic legal systems strive to protect...

Toward A Multiple Consciousness of Language: A Tribute to Professor Mari Matsuda

I am thrilled to be part of this commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Professor Matsuda's...

House Swaps: A Strategic Bankruptcy Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis

Since the price peak in 2006, home values have fallen more than 30 percent, leaving millions of Americans...
MAILING LIST
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List