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Afraid of God or afraid of man: How religion shapes attitudes toward free riding and fraud

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  • H'MADOUN, Maryam
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    Abstract

    In the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith captured the key elements of a theory -later developed by many others – of why religion matters for behavior: self-interest, belief prevailing over belonging and a religion with an image of god as omnipotent, all-seeing and judging. The goal of this paper is to test this theory empirically by investigating how religion constrains people’s willingness to engage in free riding and fraud, i.e. cheating on taxes, falsely claiming government benefits, free riding on public transport and accepting a bribe. The most recent wave of the World Values Survey (2005-2008) is used to look into whether religion might be a factor shaping people’s attitudes toward free riding, and to what extent belief or participation make a difference. Results show that religion effectively exerts an influence mainly through belief in god. This effect was only found significant in those country groups that share an image of god as an active, punishing and judging being in contrast to an abstract and distant transcendental essence. This corresponds to previous literature where the conjecture is that fear of an all-seeing and punishing god alters the costs and benefits associated with fraudulent or immoral behavior making it less attractive.

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    File URL: https://www.uantwerpen.be/images/uantwerpen/container1244/files/TEW%20-%20Onderzoek/Working%20Papers/RPS/2011/RPS-2011-008.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011008.

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    Length: 24 pages
    Date of creation: Jun 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ant:wpaper:2011008

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    Web page: https://www.uantwerp.be/en/faculties/applied-economic-sciences/
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    Keywords: Religion; Free riding; Public goods;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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    2. Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2002. "People's Opium? Religion and Economic Attitudes," CEPR Discussion Papers 3588, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Tan, Jonathan H.W., 2006. "Religion and social preferences: An experimental study," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 60-67, January.
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    7. Anderson, Gary M, 1988. "Mr. Smith and the Preachers: The Economics of Religion in the Wealth of Nations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(5), pages 1066-88, October.
    8. Anderson, Lisa R. & Mellor, Jennifer M., 2009. "Religion and cooperation in a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 58-60, October.
    9. Torgler, Benno, 2006. "The importance of faith: Tax morale and religiosity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 81-109, September.
    10. Marwell, Gerald & Ames, Ruth E., 1981. "Economists free ride, does anyone else? : Experiments on the provision of public goods, IV," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 295-310, June.
    11. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2005. "Did the Devil Make Them Do It? The Effects of Religion in Public Goods and Trust Games," Working Papers 20, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
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