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February 21, 2008


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The Pathetic Earthling

I trust Cass Sunstein was not "A" and that some other important figure there at the law school is not "B." Elena Kagan ought not be taken lightly.


As you say, each individual criminal has very little incentive to return B. In countries with very advanced kidnapping industries, such as in Latin America, repeat players (organized kidnapping syndicates) are able to credibly promise delivery on payment. I recall hearing that it's actually become semi-routinized in countries like Colombia.

michael webster

Thomas Schelling has an interesting account of how the market for stolen art works, on page 203 of Choice and Consequence.

It involved the use of agents by the insurance company, who were free to make their own deal with the thief - having already made a deal with the insurance company, the details which were unknown to the thief.

This would appear an easier strategic solution. The game is relatively simple to model.


There is a more immediate problem. For reputation to matter there must be a manner to identify a theif with a successful prior theft and return. If the theive is truly successful and his identity remains mystery, it will be difficult for the theif to prove his identity and gain the benefit of the reputational effects. The solution would most likely require an identifiable characteristic which is difficult to copy but which does not reveal the identify of the theif for purposes of law enforcement. However, there would be great incentives for copycat criminals to work to copy the identifiable characteristic so to benefit from the previous criminals "good" reputation. I imagine that it's likely that this reputational market would fail due to the difficulty of creating it and then maintaining it.

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