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For years, proponents of the death penalty have argued that it acts as a deterrent. This claim has been damn tough to prove, probably because it’s wrong. What’s ironic, though, is that the prohibitively large expense of prosecuting capital cases may successfully deter “tough on crime” prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in all but the rarest of instances, which, if the death penalty is constitutional at all, should be the only time it’s deployed anyway.

Might this be the first time that I can think of where the efficiency focus of law and economics might be used for some good?

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