In the U.S., a lot of policies and regulations tend to focus on threatening citizens in the hope that it will help in deterring the commission of a crime. Thus, so-called sticks are used. The past administrations and policymakers in the country have emphasized the use of force and the imposition of coercive sanctions to tackle crime. However, as records have shown, these methods always fail. One can conclude that the policy makers think of switching to the use of the new approach. The paper takes the position that affirmative policies, so-called carrots, are always the best option when it comes to reducing the rate of crime. The carrots are known to be the active systems that involve the following ways of deterring crime: education and rehabilitation. On the other hand, the sticks are the policies, which are considered negative ones. The reason is that such policies include threatening means as a way of ensuring people abstain from committing crimes. The paper also discusses the economic models of behavior and their relation to criminal behavior. It examines evidence obtained from the materials of different authors who support the affirmative policies strategy, on the limits of the sticks and advantages of the carrots techniques in encouraging law-abiding behavior. Overall, the paper takes the perspective that the carrots are the best if not the only way of reducing the rate of crime.

Economic Reasoning

The economic models of human behavior are essential in explaining the psychology behind criminal behavior. The research explores the economic, sociological, psychological, and political models. The economic model is based on the belief that an individual is an evaluator and maximizer of money. He or she has the only one wish and desire in life that is money. A person believes it is easier to accumulate wealth than to prefer the complex relationships with fellow humans. The demerits of this model are based on the assumption that humans pivotal goal is money. However, the economic model does not include other possible aims in human life that can exceed the desire for profit.

The sociological model assumes that people are the product of their cultural environment. The taboos, customs, and traditions of the society where a person was born and raised determine his or her character. Social customs and practices play an essential role in determining the attitude and actions of persons at any point in time. People lack personal causal responsibility for their actions. The attitude to a thief in the society can be drawn as an example. According to the sociological model, one should not punish an individual for his or her deeds as no criminal chooses to be a criminal. Thus, the solution would rather lie in the rehabilitation of an individual. The sociological model also fails because it does not explain the differences in human behavior at a point in time. What is more, this model does not cover a conscious deliberation of actions.

In accordance with the psychological model that is based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, humans have needs that are hierarchical by nature. At the bottom of the pyramid, there are the physiological needs that are necessary for an individual. They include the need for clothes, food, and shelter. The aforementioned basic requirements are essential, and a person cannot move up the ladder to satisfy other needs if he or she fails to meet the physiological requirements. The latter are followed by safety wants. They include private and fiscal security. First, a person needs to find shelter. The need for love and belonging is the next step. People crave a sense of belonging and social acceptance. This need makes people join sports groups, religious teams, and gangs. The second critical need that arises is self-esteem. The latter is based on the need to be respected by individuals in the society. It helps give a person value in the community. The failure of fulfilling this need can result in low self-esteem. Self-actualization tops the hierarchy of requirements. At this level, a person realizes his or her full potential. Examples include the need for identity, status, and achievement. The demerit of this model is that it assumes that the chain of individual wants is perfect and that one cannot proceed to an upper need if he or she has not satisfied the lesser want. However, it should be noted that humans can substitute one need for another when the necessity arises. In accordance with the aforementioned political model, it is believed that people have the capacity for altruism. They care about others and consider their interests minimizing own welfare. It subscribes to the school of thought that individuals are agents acting on behalf of their masters for the sake of the nation, tribe, sect, or organization. Such a person is willing to sacrifice his or her welfare for that of the principal. In criminology, this behavior is characteristic in evaluating the characters of Tamil Tigers among other gangs. This political model also fails because it is said to believe in crises to the extent that if crises do not exist, they are invented, even if it means just the illusion of it. It is done so to show people as agents of principals.

Literature Review

Economists have been questioning the continued use of coercive sanctions as a means of reducing crime. Using data, they have shown that these strategies have failed in substance, procedure, and effectiveness. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that this topic has promoted considerable debate in the recent years. Loughran, Nguyen, Piquero, and Fagan use the human capital theory to posit that individuals boost their work returns through savings in tutoring and teaching. They associate the rise of illegal wage premiums to investments in criminal capital. The authors advocate for educational investment to decrease if not eliminate illegal wage payments. According to the study undertaken by Loughran et al. in Chicago, the rate of homicide in the state was 18 times higher in Blacks than Whites (2013, p. 928). It is attributable to automaticity in responses leading to escalated aggression and dropping out of school. In providing a solution, the authors posit that youth responded positively to interventions that reduced the automaticity in high stakes situational responses. An example is an after-school sports program. Studies show that violent crimes were reduced by 44 percent, while the rate of non-violent crimes was cut to 36 percent. The authors conclude by advocating for education and other interventions as a way of reducing crime in the nation.


Zhang uses a different perspective to support positive laws. He posits that most states have embarked on investing in correctional facilities rather than in education. Some of the states have reduced their education spending by almost 10 percent. An example is Alabama, which has the deepest cuts and, consequently, is among the ten states with the highest incarceration rates. The author passionately advocates for education as a way of reducing crime in the society. Zhang claims that education keeps students preoccupied and guarantees them a good standard of living. Therefore, with this knowledge, they will not need to engage in crime.

Walker does not share the point of view of the above authors considering education. Nevertheless, he similarly advocates for carrots as a way of reducing criminal behavior. Walker argues that law-abiding behavior is achievable through positive reinforcements. He examines new evidence on the positive effects of programs designed to encourage law-abiding behavior. In support of his testimony about the limitation of sticks, Walker uses the example of drink driving enforcement. Such policies as imprisonment were used as sticks to deter people from committing crimes, i. e. drunk driving. In the end, the plans shows that other social systems are the most efficient in reducing traffic fatalities. These include the preface of safety belts, and interlock applications that stop an impaired driver from operating an automobile. Walker posits that effective offense deterrence requires the simultaneous application of several different laws. He advocates for the establishment of offender reentry programs to help ex-convicts blend into society and avoid slipping back into crime.

Hall, Harger, and Stansel take an argumentative position on the topic. The authors analyze the U.S. states on recidivism rates based on the percentage of the prisoners who were released into the society from prison. Using the example of Alaska, the authors posit that within three years after the criminals were released in 1999, 66 percent of all offenders returned to incarceration at least once. It was contended that ex-offenders recidivate for financial reasons. Therefore, criminals should embrace education related rehabilitative programs while they are in prison so as to improve their job prospects post release. Contrary to the theory that harsher punishment (sticks) leads to deterrence in crime, Hall, Harger, and Stansel state that based on studies, worth prison conditions increase the likelihood of recidivism. Therefore, the sticks may only work on non-crime committing citizens.


The economic model advances the theory that humans have a selfish desire for money. It leads a person to commit crimes, especially white collar crimes like embezzlement. According to Hall, Harger, and Stansel, the offenders recidivate for financial reasons. One can conclude that lawmakers enact economic and fiscal policies on job creation rather than coercive legislations. It a debatable topic, but it would be more practical to reduce the rate of crimes when the laws provide for avenues for people to obtain employment. Together with work comes financial security, and the need to commit a crime to consolidate one’s finances fizzles. The sociological model depicts criminals as victims of society. The application of policies that threaten people into abstaining from criminal behavior will not deter the commission of crimes. The embracing of positive reinforcements, such as rehabilitating offenders, will help educate them on the importance of taking responsibility for their actions and not blaming society. According to the psychological model, individuals consign to crimes especially in gangs so as to fulfill all levels of their lives. The safety needs are met through the protection provided by gang members to each other. It is possible to assume that membership gives such persons a strong sense of belonging and relatedness. Policies that are coercive will only increase the desire by criminals to fulfill their needs. When combined with the perfect agent model that explains the psychology behind criminal acts, the two models can lay the basis for the formation of educational policies, such as those on the psychology of terrorism mentioned above. They will help experts understand the main focus behind the agents’ extreme loyalty to their principals.


The paper reviewed four pieces of literature and different economic models regarding the effectiveness of using carrot strategies to decrease crime. There is strong evidence that increase in coercive sanctions improves recidivism rates accordingly. The elasticity of crime with respect to the coercive sanctions is high. Although the extent to which they correlate is debatable, data from Alaska supports the conclusion. What is more, the use of coercive sanction will not always decrease crime. If to consider the drink driving policies, affirmative strategies like the use of safety belts are known to be the most efficient in the reduction of crime. Finally, there is a moderately extensive evidence of a link between unemployment rates and crime in the states especially in cases of recidivism. Overall, the paper shows that people respond to the incentives that are positive and non-threatening. In concluding, there is a clear insight into the effectiveness of using carrot techniques compared to sticks. More research needs to be conducted on the advantages of affirmative policies and less on the negative laws. The levels of crime are bound to reduction if measures in support of enhancement of carrot policies are enforced.


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