Journal Articles

The Economics of Desecration: Flag Burning and Related Activities

1998, The Journal of Legal Studies

Eric Bennett Rasmusen


When a symbol is desecrated, the desecrator obtains benefits while other people incur costs. Negative externalities are intrinsic to desecration, suggesting a case for government regulation if the costs exceed the benefits. The case for restrictions is especially strong because of the impracticality of Coasean bargaining and the possibility of efficient lawbreaking. In addition, desecration reduces the incentive for the creation and maintenance of symbols, which, like other goods, need property-rights protection for efficient production. Copyright 1998 by the University of Chicago.


Rasmusen, Eric Bennett (1998), "The Economics of Desecration: Flag Burning and Related Activities," The Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, June, 245-270.


Lead article

Kelley School of Business

Faculty & Research