This essay satirizes the principle approaches used to theorize an optimal deterrence to criminal conduct. Organized as a cynical scholar’s advice to others on how to publish their work in academic law journals, the essay explains and then applies the differing approaches offered by law and economics, behavioral law and economics, psychology, philosophy, and humanism. It does this while incorporating each of the essay’s five recommendations:
- when selecting your title, be sure to include the phrase “economic approach;”
- to disguise your research as empirical, include mathematical formulas even though otherwise unnecessary;
- pretend to be a qualified cognitive psychologist;
- even if utterly bizarre, confidently inject philosophy into your argument;
- even though totally unsupported by your previous argument, end your work with abrupt uplifting redemption.
The effect is to deflate popular assumed roles of faux-empiricism and game theory in theoretical works which arbitrarily assign variable values rather than assigning values based upon scientific method based experimentation. The essay concludes with the assertion that our human nature causes many to need to believe that maximized punishment and minimized enforcement leads to an optimal deterrence of criminal conduct, that the different approaches to criminal deterrence theory were structured to reach that result despite powerful experiential, experimental, and mathematical evidence to the contrary, and that a balanced approach of valuing both the victim and offender is necessary to reach an optimal—albeit still very imperfect—approach to the deterrence of criminal conduct.