Emanuela Carbonara , Francesco Parisi and Georg von Wangenheim (University of Bologna - Department of Economics , University of Minnesota - Law School and University of Kassel) have posted Unjust Laws and Illegal Norms on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Due to a variety of circumstances, lawmakers occasionally create laws whose aims are perceived as outright unjust by the majority of the people. In other situations, the law may utilize improper means for the pursuit of a just goal. In all such cases, lawmaking processes generate rules that do not reflect the values of the underlying population. In these cases individuals may face legal commands or prohibitions that conflict with their sense of justice or fairness. Individuals can oppose unjust laws through protest. Social opposition to unjust laws may trigger social norms that can have countervailing effects on legal intervention. The dynamic effects of these phenomena are the object of this paper.
And from the text:
A stricter law will induce a higher number of individuals to express their opposition. By way of an avalanche, this will induce additional individuals to voice their disapproval of the law. The large number of protesters will eventually sustain a higher level of violations. The new stricter law has counterproductive effects, ultimately defeating the lawmaker’s policy objective.
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This is exactly what happened in response to increased sanctions against copyright infringers and music downloaders in the US in the summer of 2003. It is estimated that the number of music downloaders using major P2P platforms fell in September 2003, when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) started suing individuals who downloaded and shared music files over the Internet. However, strong negative reactions and protest occurred both among music downloaders and individuals who did not download. By October 2003, i.e. just one month later, downloading activity had resumed to a level much higher than before the RIAA started suing.
Very interesting paper. Highly recommended!