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A theory of liberal churches

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  • Makowsky, Michael D.

Abstract

There is a counterintuitive gap in the club theory of religion. While it elegantly accounts for the success of strict sectarian religious groups in recruiting members and maintaining commitment, it is less satisfactory when attempting to account for groups requiring neither extreme nor zero sacrifice. Moderate groups are always a suboptimal choice for rational, utility maximizing agents within the original representative agent model. The corner solutions of zero and absolute sacrifice, however, are rarely observed empirically compared to the moderate intermediate. In this paper, we extend the original model to operate within an agent-based computational context, with a distribution of heterogeneous agents occupying coordinates in a two dimensional lattice, making repeated decisions over time. Our model offers the possibility of successful moderate groups, including outcomes wherein the population is dominated by moderate groups. The viability of moderate groups is dependent on extending the model to accommodate agent heterogeneity, not just within the population of agents drawn from, but heterogeneity within groups. Moderate sacrifice rates mitigate member free riding and serve as a weak screening device that permits a range of agent types into the group. Within-group heterogeneity allows agents to benefit from the differing comparative advantages of their fellow members.

Suggested Citation

  • Makowsky, Michael D., 2011. "A theory of liberal churches," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 41-51, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:matsoc:v:61:y:2011:i:1:p:41-51
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Metin Cosgel & Lanse Minkler, 2004. "Religious Identity and Consumption," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(3), pages 339-350.
    2. Williamson, Oliver, 2009. "The Theory of the Firm as Governance Structure: From Choice to Contract," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 6, pages 111-134, December.
    3. 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 271-291, April.
    4. Hungerman, Daniel M., 2009. "Crowd-out and diversity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 729-740, June.
    5. Elinor Ostrom, 2000. "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 137-158, Summer.
    6. Eli Berman, 2000. "Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: An Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 905-953.
    7. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Club theory Moderate religion Agent-based computational model Sacrifice and stigma Heterogeneous agents;

    JEL classification:

    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations

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