Afraid of God or afraid of man: How religion shapes attitudes toward free riding and fraud
AbstractIn 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.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011008.
Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Prinsstraat 13, B-2000 Antwerpen
Web page: https://www.uantwerp.be/en/faculties/applied-economic-sciences/
More information through EDIRC
Religion; Free riding; Public goods;
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2011-06-25 (All new papers)
- NEP-HPE-2011-06-25 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
- NEP-POL-2011-06-25 (Positive Political Economics)
- NEP-SOC-2011-06-25 (Social Norms & Social Capital)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Gary S. Becker, 1974.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54
National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2002.
"People's Opium? Religion and Economic Attitudes,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
3588, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Tan, Jonathan H.W., 2006. "Religion and social preferences: An experimental study," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 60-67, January.
- Bradley Ruffle & Richard Sosis, 2007.
"Does it pay to pray? Costly ritual and cooperation,"
Artefactual Field Experiments
00014, The Field Experiments Website.
- Ruffle Bradley J. & Sosis Richard, 2007. "Does It Pay To Pray? Costly Ritual and Cooperation," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-37, March.
- Hull, Brooks B. & Bold, Frederick, 1995. "Preaching matters: Replication and extension," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 143-149, June.
- Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-91, April.
- 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.
- 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.
- Torgler, Benno, 2006.
"The importance of faith: Tax morale and religiosity,"
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization,
Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 81-109, September.
- Benno Torgler, 2003. "The Importance of Faith: Tax Morale and Religiosity," CREMA Working Paper Series 2003-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
- 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.
- 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.
- Lisa Anderson & Jennifer Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2010. "Did the Devil Make Them Do It? The Effects of Religion in Public Goods and Trust Games -super-* ," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 163-175, 05.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joeri Nys).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.