Are Gambling NBA Referees More Like Speeding Motorists or Corporate Executives?

On the ‘Glom, Christine Hurt has posted When Everyone Breaks the Rules (NBA Style) . In it, she critiques David Stern’s decision not to punish the NBA referees, who collectively, it seems, have all violated the league’s anti-gambling rules in assorted ways. Christine seems to think the situation is sort of like the problem of under-enforced corporate law, a topic she has a new (terrific) piece about. Perhaps NBA referees ought to be subject to discretionary enforcement, targeted at the worst offenders or those who are (bad) norm entrepreneurs.

But there are times when a community’s lack of compliance with the law means it is a bad law – like speeding. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a particularly good principle to distinguish regimes that require more legal enforcement from those that require different laws. An efficiency analysis here would seem to be particularly unhelpful, because L&E is notably bad at telling us much about which acts should be criminalized. What do you think – should NBA refs be allowed to play in a home poker game?

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2 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    Tim Wu has a nice series in Slate exploring various under- or un-enforced laws:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2175730/entry/2175733/

    “Full enforcement of every last law on the books would put all of us in prison for crimes such as ‘injuring a mail bag.’ No enforcement of our laws, on the other hand, would mean anarchy. Somehow, officials must choose what laws really matter.”

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    Speeding is a great example of the difference between law and practice. But I’m curious Dave, what do you mean by the claim that speed limits are “bad laws”? That they should be higher? Abolished? Replaced with a standard instead of a rule? More granular? None of those alternatives seem obviously better, to me.