Violent Behavior who provided comments on an earlier version of this paper. All remaining errors are solely the responsibility of the authors.



The following details of the case are taken from "A Murderous Hoax," Newsweek, January 22, 1990, pp. 16-22.


Comments by Philip J. Cook on earlier draft of this paper, April 1, 1990.


See Maltz (1975) for a critique of the crime seriousness index, as well as suggestions for improvements in crime classification schemes. Maltz also proposes that other objective measures of crime seriousness be explored, such as the amount of time until recovery from temporary physical injuries, as well as the possible monetizing of physical injuries and death.


This is due to the "wealth" effect (Cook and Graham, 1977). That is, because the marginal utility of money declines with wealth, people are willing to pay less to avoid an injury than would be required to accept one. To the extent that the wealth effect is the only difference, then WTA and WTP are likely to be fairly close if they amount to a relatively small portion of a person's wealth.


Fischhoff and Cox (1986:62) cite various reasons for this disparity. From a psychological standpoint, individuals who own a commodity might have a better idea of its value. Ethically, one can argue that someone who owns the commodity must be compensated considerably for its loss.


The incidence of serious unintentional injury has been declining over time, and treatment promoting recovery has been improved. As a result, prevalence-based unintentional injury estimates, which represent a cross-sectional snapshot, tend to be higher, because they capture higher than normal injury rates, including such costs as those associated with treating disabled American veterans from the Vietnam War.


It has been argued that even though the victim involuntarily transfers money or property to the offender, or even if the property is eventually recovered, the value of this property can be used as a proxy for resources devoted by the offender (as well as intermediaries such as fencing operations) and are thus a social cost (Becker, 1968:171, note 3). However, Demmert (1979:9) argues that if the "market" for crime is not competitive, the value of stolen property is higher than the thief's actual cost; thus, the

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