Introduction to the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity
Altruism, giving and pro-social conduct, and reciprocity, are the basis of the existence and performance of societies, through their various occurrences: in families; among the diverse motives of the political and public sector; as the general respect and moral conduct which permit life in society and exchanges; for remedying "failures" of markets and organizations (which they sometimes also create); and in charity and specific organizations. Altruism has various origins: it can be hedonistic or natural altruism in empathy, affection, sympathy, emotional contagion, pity, and compassion; or normative altruism of the moral, non-moral social, and rational types. Giving can be altruistic, aimed at producing some social effect in the fields of social sentiments, situations or relations, an intrinsic norm, or self-interested. Reciprocity, in which a gift elicits another gift, is a pervasive social relation due to either a desire of balance (and possibly fairness), or to liking a benevolent giver (moreover, self-interested sequential exchanges look like it). Joint giving for alleviating poverty and need makes giving a contribution to a pure public good for which efficient public transfers crowd out private gifts. Yet, private giving can be an intrinsic norm or a demand of reason, or it can be motivated by the non-moral concern about judgments of others or of oneself. Families - the institutions for love and giving - are networks of reciprocities. Intertemporal giving includes gifts to future generation through bequests, and to earlier generations through the relevant public indebtedness ("retro-gifts"). Normative opinions about societies, and in particular about justice, imply and require altruism and constitute a form of it. Moreover, altruism is the mark of good social relations and good persons. Altruism and giving have always been analysed by economics, notably by all great economists, with an upsurge of studies in the last third of the 20th century.
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