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Theory of Values

  • Andreas Georgiadis
  • Alan Manning

Economists have a well-developed theory of value but the theory of why people hold the values they do is rudimentary at best. In spite of the fact that it is common to argue that values are important, most work on values is normative and the positive theory of values is relatively under- developed. In this paper we propose a simple yet general way to think about values - they are about how one trades-off one own's utility against that of others - and argue that we can draw on the large literature on pro-social behavior for hypotheses on how people will choose values. Then, using data from the UK's Citizenship Survey we show how models of self-interest, fairness, reciprocity and identity, can explain many of the patterns that we observe in the data across a wide variety of values.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0943.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0943
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