Immunity and Incentives

Imagine giving someone great power whose misuse can cause harm to people’s lives, liberties, and property, but shielding the power wielders from all personal responsibility to compensate those they harm. Just how much care and responsibility would you expect someone in this protected status to exercise? Of course, this is precisely the situation of government officials and functionaries, who may wreak the gravest harms yet never pay a penny from their own pockets to the people their actions have harmed.

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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.

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