IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

”Thou shalt not covet ...”: Prohibitions, Temptation and Moral Values

  • Matteo Cervellati

    (University of Bologna and IZA Bonn)

  • Paolo Vanin

    (University of Bologna)

We propose a theory studying temptation in presence of both externally and internally sanctioned prohibitions. Moral values that (internally) sanction prohibited actions and their desire may increase utility by reducing self-control costs, thereby serving as partial commitment devices. We apply the model to crime and study the conditions under which agents would optimally adhere to moral values of honesty. Incentives to be moral are non- monotonic in the crime premium. Larger external punishments increase temptation and demand for morality, so that external and internal sanctions are complements. The model helps rationalizing stylized facts that proved difficult to explain with available theories.

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.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2010.54.

in new window

Date of creation: May 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2010.54
Contact details of provider: Postal: Corso Magenta, 63 - 20123 Milan
Phone: 0039-2-52036934
Fax: 0039-2-52036946
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Ernesto Dal Bó & Pedro Dal Bó, 2009. ""Do the Right Thing:" The Effects of Moral Suasion on Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 15559, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gani Aldashev & Imane Chaara & Jean-Philippe Platteau & Zaki Wahhaj, 2010. "Using the Law to Change the Custom," Working Papers 2010.60, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  3. Guido Tabellini, 2008. "The Scope of Cooperation: Values and Incentives," CESifo Working Paper Series 2236, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Eric Rasmusen, 1995. "``Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality''," Law and Economics 9506001, EconWPA.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  6. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 2006. "A Dual Self Model of Impulse Control," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2112, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  7. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 2007. "Symbolic values, occupational choice, and economic development," Discussion Papers 2007/2, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  8. Giacomo Corneo & Olivier Jeanne, 2007. "A Theory of Tolerance," CESifo Working Paper Series 1941, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Benhabib, Jess & Bisin, Alberto, 2005. "Modeling internal commitment mechanisms and self-control: A neuroeconomics approach to consumption-saving decisions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 460-492, August.
  10. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2010. "What Do Economists Know about Crime?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 269-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-65, May-June.
  12. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy & Moshe Hoffman, 2011. "Taboos and Identity: Considering the Unthinkable," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 139-64, May.
  13. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
  14. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Rotemberg, Julio J, 1994. "Human Relations in the Workplace," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 684-717, August.
  16. Funk, Patricia, 2004. "On the effective use of stigma as a crime-deterrent," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 715-728, August.
  17. Lindbeck, Assar & Nyberg, Sten, 2001. "Raising Children To Work Hard: Altruism, Work Norms And Social Insurance," Seminar Papers 691, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  18. Davis, Michael L, 1988. "Time and Punishment: An Intertemporal Model of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 383-90, April.
  19. Sah, R.K., 1990. "Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis," Papers 609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  20. Weibull, Jörgen & Villa, Edgar, 2005. "Crime, punishment and social norms," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 610, Stockholm School of Economics.
  21. Laurence Kranich & Matteo Cervellati & Joan Esteban, 2010. "Work Values, Endogenous Sentiments and Redistribution," Discussion Papers 10-05, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  22. Blume, Lawrence, 2002. "Stigma and Social Control," Economics Series 119, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  23. McCrary, Justin & Lee, David S., 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2gh1r30h, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  24. W. Pesendorfer & F. Gul, 1999. "Temptation and Self-Control," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f1, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  25. Paolo Buonanno & Daniel Montolio & Paolo Vanin, 2006. "Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?," Working Papers (-2012) 0605, University of Bergamo, Department of Economics.
  26. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  27. Glaeser, Edward L & Sacerdote, Bruce & Scheinkman, Jose A, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-48, May.
  28. Claude Montmarquette & Giorgio Coricelli & Mateus Joffily & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2007. "Tax Evasion: Cheating Rationally or Deciding Emotionally?," Working Papers 0724, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  29. Benabou, Roland & Pycia, Marek, 2002. "Dynamic inconsistency and self-control: a planner-doer interpretation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 419-424, November.
  30. Furuya, Kaku, 2002. "A socio-economic model of stigma and related social problems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 281-290, July.
  31. Posner, Richard A, 1997. "Social Norms and the Law: An Economic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 365-69, May.
  32. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough Or Don'T Pay At All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810, August.
  33. Adriani, Fabrizio & Sonderegger, Silvia, 2009. "Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory," MPRA Paper 16107, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  34. David S. Lee & Justin McCrary, 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 1171, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  35. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2007. "Moral Rules, the Moral Sentiments, and Behavior: Toward a Theory of an Optimal Moral System," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 494-514.
  36. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
  37. Giorgio Coricelli & Matteus Joffily & Claude Montmarquette & Marie Claire Villeval, 2010. "Cheating, Emotions, and Rationality: An Experiment on Tax Evasion," Post-Print halshs-00462067, HAL.
  38. Cervellati, Matteo & Esteban, Joan & Kranich, Laurence, 2010. "Work values, endogenous sentiments redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 612-627, October.
  39. Marko Tervio & Ernesto Dal Bo, 2008. "Self-esteem, Moral Capital, and Wrongdoing," 2008 Meeting Papers 245, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  40. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jšrgen W. Weibull, 1999. "Social Norms And Economic Incentives In The Welfare State," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-35, February.
  41. David S. Lee & Justin McCrary, 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 1168, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  42. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2010.54. 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: (barbara racah)

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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.