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A Theory of Liberal Churches

  • Michael D. Makowsky


    (Department of Economics, Towson University)

There is a counterintuitive gap in the club theory of religion. While it elegantly accounts for the notable success of strict sectarian religious groups in recruiting members and maintaining commitment, it exhibits less satisfactory properties when used to account for groups requiring neither extreme nor zero sacrifice. Such corner solutions, compared to the moderate middle, are rarely observed empirically. Within the original representative agent model, moderate groups are everywhere and always a suboptimal choice for rational, utility maximizing agents. In this paper, we extend the original model to operate within a multi-agent computational context, with heterogeneous agents occupying coordinates in a two dimensional lattice, making repeated decisions over time. Our model offers the possibility of successful moderate groups, including outcomes wherein the population is dominated by moderate groups. The viability of moderate groups is a result of heterogeneous agent wages. Lower wage agents offer greater time contributions, but lesser financial contributions to groups. Higher sacrifice rates incentive greater contributions from members, but reduce private productivity and screen out other potential members with greater financial resources. Moderate groups succeed by offering an optimal balance of these countervailing forces.

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Paper provided by Towson University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2010-04.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision: Feb 2010
Handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2010-04
Contact details of provider: Postal: Towson, Maryland 21252-0001
Phone: 410-704-2959
Fax: 410-704-3424
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  1. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  2. Elinor Ostrom, 2000. "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 137-158, Summer.
  3. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-91, April.
  4. Hungerman, Daniel M., 2009. "Crowd-out and diversity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 729-740, June.
  5. Eli Berman, 1998. "Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: An Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews," NBER Working Papers 6715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Oliver E. Williamson, 2002. "The Theory of the Firm as Governance Structure: From Choice to Contract," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 171-195, Summer.
  7. Metin Cosgel & Lanse Minkler, 2004. "Religious Identity and Consumption," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(3), pages 339-350.
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