IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

A note on the Trolley Problem and Three Weaknesses of Economic Theory


  • Alessandro Lanteri

    () (Faculty of Political Science, Università del Piemonte Orientale at Alessandria)


The trolley problem is a moral dilemmas in which human lives are in danger and some, but not all, can be saved by direct intervention of a decision-maker. This article discusses three weaknesses of microeconomics with respect to individual conduct in the trolley problem: (i) it cannot make predictions; (ii) after observing the conduct of participants in an experiment, it cannot explain their decisions; (iii) it cannot suggest policies that ensure the maximization of aggregate welfare, nor can it suggest laws that endorse the prevailing observed conduct.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Lanteri, 2010. "A note on the Trolley Problem and Three Weaknesses of Economic Theory," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 30(1), pages 500-507.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebl:ecbull:eb-09-00618

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cubitt, Robin P. & Drouvelis, Michalis & Gächter, Simon & Kabalin, Ruslan, 2011. "Moral judgments in social dilemmas: How bad is free riding?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(3), pages 253-264.
    2. Sen, Amartya, 1985. "Goals, Commitment, and Identity," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(2), pages 341-355, Fall.
    3. Alessandro Lanteri & Chiara Chelini & Salvatore Rizzello, 2008. "An Experimental Investigation of Emotions and Reasoning in the Trolley Problem," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 83(4), pages 789-804, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    experiment; moral dilemma; trolley problem;

    JEL classification:

    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ebl:ecbull:eb-09-00618. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (John P. Conley). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.