Social Insurance, Commitment, and the Origin of Law: Interest Bans in Early Christianity
Despite the historical importance of ideology-based, economically inhibitive laws, we know little about the economic factors underlying their origin. This paper accounts for the historical emergence of one such law: the Christian ban on taking interest-a doctrine that shaped the evolution of numerous financial contracts and related organizational forms. A game-theoretic analysis and historical evidence suggest that the Church's commitment to providing social insurance for its poorest constituents encouraged risky borrowing, which the Church attempted to limit by banning interest. The analysis highlights the applicability of the rational choice framework to seemingly irrational actions and laws, the role of nonmonetary sanctions in circumventing commitment problems, and the importance of economic forces vis-Ã -vis ideology. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:52:y:2009:i:4:p:761-786. 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: (Journals Division)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.