Is the death penalty an efficient crime deterrent?
The economic argument in favor of the death penalty is rather simple. Economists assume that individuals weigh the expected costs and benefits when deciding to undertake any activity. Thus, rational individuals considering criminal activities would weigh the expected benefits against the expected cost of the criminal endeavor. The expected cost of any given crime is affected by the probability of being detected, the probability of being convicted given detection, and the expected penalty that results from a conviction. Since the death penalty provides a higher cost than alternative punishments, it is expected to generate a larger deterrent effect, ceteris paribus.