This is an explanation for passage 1 of LSAT preptest 64, the October 2011 LSAT. This passage is about crime and economics. It discusses theories about the best ways to prevent deliberate crimes. There are two legal theories that are reconciled by utility maximization theory.
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- Debate: should we help give potential criminals access to economic opportunity, or should we deter them with punishment?
- Utility maximization theory says both views are correct. The theory says deliberate crime is a rational decision. Do the costs of crime outweigh the benefits?
- According to this theory, deterrence reduces the reward for crime, and increasing economic opportunity increases the reward for not committing a crime.
The first paragraph is confusing. It’s hard to figure out what the first group of scholars wants. Access to economic institutions? What is that?
Academics often find it hard to communicate with human beings. What the professors mean to say is: we should help poor people find jobs, start businesses, feed their families, etc. That way they’ll be less likely to commit crimes. “Work”, “jobs”, “community”, etc. are all “economic institutions”.
The other scholars have a clearer opinion. They want to punish criminals, and try to convince potential criminals that they’ll suffer if they commit crimes.
Utility maximization theory says these are two sides of the same coin. The first group (institutions) raises the rewards of not committing crimes. The second group (deterrence) raises the costs of committing crimes. Remember that we’re only talking about intentional crimes (line 2).
So, according to the theory, if you earn $20,000 per year and you could steal $1,000,000 with little risk, you might be tempted to steal. But if you earn $60,000 per year, and you’ll almost certainly go to jail for ten years if you steal any amount of money, you probably won’t be tempted.
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