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Published: 15 December 2011

288 Pages | 4 illustrations


ISBN: 9780199781744

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The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior

David C. Rose

  • Completely new contribution: this is a not a book that exists to explain what is, this is a "what if" book. Yet by undertaking this "what if" exercise we can't help but reach new insights that help us better understand what is.
  • Something for everyone to like: those who are very religious will be happy to see that amorphous moral earnestness is not enough - indeed it is counterproductive - because it is the actual content of moral beliefs that matters. Those who are not religious will be happy to see that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between specific narratives and moral beliefs that possess the required characteristics.
  • Something for everyone to hate: many mainstream economists will find it an unnecessary detour that distracts from building the perfect beast (a paradigm that need not stray from enlightened self-interest to explain everything). Those outside of economics may view it as yet another act of economic imperialism. In reality it was just an unbridled intellectual journey with no obligation to end up anywhere in particular.
  • A new and controversial thesis: genuine trust matters; the content of our moral beliefs, not just how moral we are, affects our ability to trust each other and this, in turn, affects our ability to maximize general prosperity by having a high trust society. Even those who suspect that culture might matter are still surprisingly reluctant to say so, preferring instead to explain trust-like behavior through external incentives produced by repeat play effects and institutions.
  • Unusual methodology: the use of a thought experiment to propel the analysis and avoid telling a just so story.

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