Trust, Reciprocity and Institutional Design: Lessons from Behavioural Economics
Trust and reciprocity are the bond of society (Locke), but economic agents are both self-interested and intrinsically untrustworthy. These assumptions impair severely economists' accounts of social relationships. The paper examines strategies to escape this paradox by enlarging our conception of rationality: the assumptions of self-interest and consequentialism are critically discussed as well as relational behavioural principles (e.g. trust and reciprocity). The implications of this enlarged kind of rationality are particularly important for agency theory. The paper analyses, within this framework, the working of two different kinds of incentive mechanisms, namely intra-personal and interpersonal, and discusses experimental results that emphasise the empirical relevance of the latter. Besides providing a more descriptively adequate picture of agency, such mechanisms have important normative implications. In this respect some of the conditions that affect the process of accumulation and erosion of trust and social capital are explored. The tension between rules and trust turns out to be not inescapable, though it calls for a changing in the designing logic of institutions and contracts. I shall discuss what are the changes needed in order to implement a trust-enhancing activity of institutional design.
|Date of creation:||07 Dec 2006|
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