I love the Becker analysis of crime, but there is one big assumption in it. What if criminals aren't rational actors? In the case of these recent car thefts, if the primary perps are kids trying to get publicity on social media, it is quite possible that they are not properly considering the costs of their actions were they to be caught. A felony conviction has enormous consequences that they may not be aware of. Thinking of my own kids, they don't understand just how important their grades are for future scholarships to college, and consequently the debt they will have to repay in the future. No matter how much we explain it to them, they just don't have the context to comprehend the financial impact a couple of C's on their report card can have. Young car thieves surely have a similar problem. As great as the Becker approach is, and I hate saying this, could it be an example of economic theory failing to grasp reality?

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My understanding of the theory is that an effective policy doesn't require every criminal to be rational, but that some of them should be. Some criminals may not be rational, but it's unlikely that we would see more cars stolen after the policy is implemented since some criminals may behave rationally.

I left out one additional probability in that expected cost calculation for simplicity, and it is that a felony conviction is a severe punishment that only happens after a criminal is caught and then convicted. While there is a low probability of being caught, there's also a probability that someone may not be convicted of a felony. This can be especially true for young criminals.

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