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Weakness Of Will

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  • Elias Khalil

Abstract

The dominant view regards weakness of will an anomaly facing the standard theory of rationality. The paper argues the opposite: What is anomalous is that weakness of will is not pervasive enough. In a simple model, the paper shows that weakness of will is the dominant strategy in a game between current self and future self. This leads to the motivating question of the paper: Why is weakness of will is not pervasive???given that precommitment and punishment are not sufficiently pervasive to remedy the weakness of will? The paper argues that the answer lies in what Adam Smith calls the ???propriety??? mechanism: Humans demand self-respect and, hence, exercise self-command over appetites and emotions.

Suggested Citation

  • Elias Khalil, 2006. "Weakness Of Will," Monash Economics Working Papers 06/06, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2006-06
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    File URL: http://www.buseco.monash.edu.au/eco/research/papers/2006/0606weaknessofwill.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-795, December.
    3. Khalil, Elias L., 1996. "Respect, admiration, aggrandizement: Adam Smith as economic psychologist," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 555-577, November.
    4. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2023. "Libertarian paternalism," Chapters, in: Cass R. Sunstein & Lucia A. Reisch (ed.), Research Handbook on Nudges and Society, chapter 1, pages 10-16, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Khalil, Elias L, 1997. "Is the Firm an Individual?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 21(4), pages 519-544, July.
    6. Leonidas Montes, 2004. "Adam Smith in Context," Palgrave Macmillan Books, Palgrave Macmillan, number 978-0-230-50440-0, March.
    7. Khalil, Elias L., 1990. "Beyond Self-Interest and Altruism: A Reconstruction of Adam Smith's Theory of Human Conduct," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 255-273, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elias Khalil, 2006. "Moral Outrage," Monash Economics Working Papers 07/06, Monash University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    property of others (justice); property of future self (prudence); decision-action gap (weakness of will); mechanisms (precommitment and propriety); trust; appetites and emotions; libertarian paternalism.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D0 - Microeconomics - - General

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