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Should (and Could) We Ban Prescriptions?

Listed author(s):
  • Richiardi Matteo G

    ()

    (Università Politecnica delle Marche and Collegio Carlo Alberto, LABORatorio R. Revelli)

In a simple model of social interaction I analyze the welfare effects of positive (prescriptive) and negative (proscriptive) social norms, together with the private incentives for their enactment. I find that imposing no law is socially optimal when individual actions have no significant externalities, while bans become socially optimal as the externalities increase. Prescriptions are generally the worst choice, except when the externalities involved are very high. However, in the political arena support is rarely won for non intervention or for a ban, since an alternative majority will generally be found in favor of some prescription. This remains true even when strategic voting is considered, and provides an argument for the idea that a liberal state cannot be liberally enforced by rational voters.

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Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

Volume (Year): 9 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-28

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:9:y:2009:i:1:n:1
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  1. Hinich, Melvin J., 1977. "Equilibrium in spatial voting: The median voter result is an artifact," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 208-219, December.
  2. Hinich, Melvin J. & Ledyard, John O. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1972. "Nonvoting and the existence of equilibrium under majority rule," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 144-153, April.
  3. Amartya Sen, 1999. "The Possibility of Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 349-378, June.
  4. Sen, Amartya, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 152-157, Jan.-Feb..
  5. Gibbard, Allan, 1973. "Manipulation of Voting Schemes: A General Result," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 587-601, July.
  6. Sen, Amartya Kumar, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Scholarly Articles 3612779, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Davis, Otto A & DeGroot, Morris H & Hinich, Melvin J, 1972. "Social Preference Orderings and Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 40(1), pages 147-157, January.
  8. Leigh Tesfatsion & Kenneth L. Judd (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of Computational Economics," Handbook of Computational Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 2, number 2.
  9. Oliver E. Williamson, 2000. "The New Institutional Economics: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 595-613, September.
  10. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
  11. David P. Myatt, 2007. "On the Theory of Strategic Voting -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 255-281.
  12. Coughlin, Peter & Nitzan, Shmuel, 1981. "Electoral outcomes with probabilistic voting and Nash social welfare maxima," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 113-121, February.
  13. Kenneth J. Arrow, 1950. "A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 328-328.
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