I ate lunch with Randy Barnett yesterday, following a speech Randy gave at Georgia State University law school to promote his new book, Restoring the Lost Constitution. When we arrived at the restaurant, I parked my car, and placed a few quarters in the parking meter. Randy asked me if I needed any more, as I had only put in enough for approximately half the time we would be parked there. I thought about it for a moment, and told him that based on my economic analysis of parking meter laws, with the associated risks of getting caught and paying a fine compared to the costs of putting a few additional quarters into the meter, I concluded that the benefits did not outweigh the costs.
As we walked to the restaurant, I mentioned to Professor Barnett that the economic analysis of crime was originally inspired by the very same problem I just described. I knew it was a University of Chicago economist who came up with the idea, but I couldn't remember which one. The first name that came to mind was George Stigler.
Here is an interview with Gary Becker in which he explains how he came to develop an economic theory of crime while searching for a parking spot.
Incidentally, while I was waiting for Professor Barnett to arrive at Georgia State, I picked up a magazine written by and for law students (I can't remember the name) and read a few of the articles. The first article was a scathing attack on student-edited law journals, in which the author presented various arguments attempting to show the incompetence of student editors and advocating a move towards more peer-review by professionals. After reading the article, I noticed that the author was none other than the blogosphere's very own Greg Goelzhauser, of Crescat and Law and Economics fame. Greg was also the one who reminded Andrew of this Gary Becker story, and Andrew in turn reminded me. Small world.