IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/jeborg/v156y2018icp206-218.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The price of redemption: Sin, penance, and marginal deterrence

Author

Listed:
  • Coşgel, Metin
  • Miceli, Thomas J.

Abstract

The threat of loss of the afterlife as punishment for sin is a fundamental tenet of nearly all religious traditions. Most religions also contain a notion of redemption, or forgiveness of sin, but they differ as to whether or not redemption requires atonement, or penance. The possibility of redemption allows sinners to be rehabilitated, but in so doing potentially undermines the incentive for them to refrain from sin in the first place. We show that a properly calibrated form of penance as the “price” of redemption can both deter people from committing early sins, and provide an incentive for those who have previously sinned to refrain from committing further sins. In other words, it achieves marginal deterrence. Such a system requires strong belief in the afterlife. When belief is moderate, we show that a regime of free redemption may be optimal. We conclude by examining the implications of the analysis for after-death redemption, the Catholic Church's practice of selling redemption (indulgences), and the Protestant doctrine of Predestination, which was in part a reaction to the Church's “commodification” of redemption.

Suggested Citation

  • Coşgel, Metin & Miceli, Thomas J., 2018. "The price of redemption: Sin, penance, and marginal deterrence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 206-218.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:156:y:2018:i:c:p:206-218
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2018.10.012
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268118302889
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Cosgel, Metin & Miceli, Thomas & Ahmed, Rasha, 2009. "Law, state power, and taxation in Islamic history," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 704-717, September.
    3. George J. Stigler, 1974. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 55-67 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Steven Shavell, 2002. "Law versus Morality as Regulators of Conduct," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 227-257.
    5. Matthew Baker & Thomas Miceli, 2005. "Credible Criminal Enforcement," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 5-15, July.
    6. Ekelund Jr., Robert B. & Tollison, Robert D., 2011. "Economic Origins of Roman Christianity," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226200026, December.
    7. Glaeser, Edward L & Glendon, Spencer, 1998. "Incentives, Predestination and Free Will," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 429-443, July.
    8. Thomas J. Miceli & Kathleen Segerson, 2007. "Punishing the Innocent along with the Guilty: The Economics of Individual versus Group Punishment," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 81-106, January.
    9. Cooter, Robert D., 1991. "Lapses, conflict, and akrasia in torts and crimes: Towards an economic theory of the will," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 149-164, September.
    10. Thomas J. Miceli, 2013. "Escalating Penalties for Repeat Offenders: Why are they So Hard to Explain?," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 169(4), pages 587-604, December.
    11. Parisi, Francesco & Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe, 2004. "The rise and fall of communal liability in ancient law," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 489-505, December.
    12. Ekelund, Robert Jr. & Hebert, Robert F. & Tollison, Robert D., 1992. "The economics of sin and redemption : Purgatory as a market-pull innovation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 1-15, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Redemption; Penance; Crime and punishment; Marginal deterrence;

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    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:eee:jeborg:v:156:y:2018:i:c:p:206-218. 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: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo .

    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.