Political Science

Why People Obey the Law


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Jun 8, 2021
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People obey the law if they believe it’s legitimate, not because they fear punishment — this is the startling conclusion of Tom Tyler’s classic study. Tyler suggests that lawmakers and law enforcers would do much better to make legal systems worthy of respect than to try to instill fear of punishment. He finds that people obey law primarily because they believe in respecting legitimate authority.

In his fascinating new afterword, Tyler brings his book up to date by reporting on new research into the relative importance of legal legitimacy and deterrence, and reflects on changes in his own thinking since his book was first published.