Globalization has made it much easier for criminal activity to cross borders, but deterrence theory has not kept up with this changed reality. I draw insights from both law-and-economics and criminology literature to enrich our understanding of deterrence. I ground my theoretical discussion in the real-world problem of sex tourism as an example of the kind of unwanted activity that now crosses borders and has complicated our understanding of deterrence. I focus on two issues central to deterrence that have not gotten sufficient scholarly attention: the phenomenon of displacement and the role of status. I argue that informal sanctions, as opposed to formal legal sanctions, are increasingly important and must be part of any effective deterrence policy. Next I argue that substitution—when activity migrates from one location to another because of changes in enforcement policy in the first place—is a complicated process that can be manipulated to enhance deterrence. Finally, I argue that when unwanted behavior involves people from different countries, we must consider the role of status in deterrence. Differences in status can distort the social processes of judgment and disapproval that allow communities to control unwanted behavior without recourse to law. If we are to prevent law enforcement successes in the West from turning into social disasters for those in the developing world, we must bring theory into step with the ways that globalization has changed the reality of crime.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Human Rights Law | International Law | Law and Economics | Law and Society

Date of this Version

April 2005