Specialization and rent-seeking in moral enforcement: The case of confession
AbstractMoral codes are produced and enforced by more or less specialized means and are subject to standard economic forces. This paper argues that the intermediary role played by the Catholic Church between God and Christians, a key difference from Protestantism, faces the standard trade-off of specialization benefits and agency costs. It applies this trade-off hypothesis to confession of sins to priests, an institution that epitomizes such intermediation, showing that this hypothesis fits cognitive, historical and econometric evidence better than a simpler rent-seeking story. In particular, Catholics who confess more often are observed to comply more with the moral code; however, no relationship is observed between mass attendance and moral compliance. The data also links the current decline in confession to the rise in education, which makes moral self-enforcement less costly, and to the productivity gap suffered by confession services, given its necessarily interpersonal nature.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 653.
Date of creation: Jan 2003
Date of revision: Jul 2009
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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/
Religion; institutions; confession; morals; law enforcement;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
- K19 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Other
- L84 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Personal, Professional, and Business Services
- N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
- Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2004-05-26 (All new papers)
- NEP-EVO-2004-05-26 (Evolutionary Economics)
- NEP-LAW-2004-05-16 (Law & Economics)
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