Specialization and rent-seeking in moral enforcement: The case of confession
Moral codes are produced and enforced by more or less specialized means and are subject to standard economic forces. This paper argues that the intermediary role played by the Catholic Church between God and Christians, a key difference from Protestantism, faces the standard trade-off of specialization benefits and agency costs. It applies this trade-off hypothesis to confession of sins to priests, an institution that epitomizes such intermediation, showing that this hypothesis fits cognitive, historical and econometric evidence better than a simpler rent-seeking story. In particular, Catholics who confess more often are observed to comply more with the moral code; however, no relationship is observed between mass attendance and moral compliance. The data also links the current decline in confession to the rise in education, which makes moral self-enforcement less costly, and to the productivity gap suffered by confession services, given its necessarily interpersonal nature.
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.:
- 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.
- Gary S. Becker, 1974.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54
National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001.
"Education and Religion,"
NBER Working Papers
8080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Education and Religion," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1913, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2001.
"Willpower and Personal Rules,"
216, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
- Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
- BLUM, Ulrich & DUDLEY, Leonard, 2001.
"Religion and Economic Growth: Was Weber Right?,"
Cahiers de recherche
2001-05, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
- Kandel, E. & Lazear, E.P., 1990.
"Peer Pressure and Partnerships,"
90-07, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
- George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
- Leonard Dudley & Ulrich Blum, 2001. "Religion and economic growth: was Weber right?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 207-230.
- Rosen, Sherwin, 1983. "Specialization and Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 43-49, January.
- Dieter Schmidtchen & Achim Mayer, 1997. "Established Clergy, Friars and the Pope: Some Institutional Economics of the Medieval Church," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 153(1), pages 122-, March.
- Pedro Pita Barros & Nuno Garoupa, 2002.
"An Economic Theory Of Church Strictness,"
Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 559-576, July.
- von Hayek, Friedrich August, 1974.
"The Pretence of Knowledge,"
Nobel Prize in Economics documents
1974-2, Nobel Prize Committee.
- Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2001. "Moral Rules and the Moral Sentiments: Toward a Theory of an Optimal Moral System," NBER Working Papers 8688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972.
"Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
- Armen A. Alchian & Harold Demsetz, 1971. "Production, Information Costs and Economic Organizations," UCLA Economics Working Papers 10A, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1995. "Risk, Rationality, and Religious Portfolios," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(2), pages 285-95, April.
- Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
- Baumol, William J, 1972. "Macroeconomics of Unbalanced Growth: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(1), pages 150, March.
- Allen, Douglas W., 1995. "Order in the church: A property rights approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 97-117, June.
- Steven Shavell, 2002. "Law versus Morality as Regulators of Conduct," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 227-257.
- Ekelund, Robert Jr. & Hebert, Robert F. & Tollison, Robert D., 1992. "The economics of sin and redemption : Purgatory as a market-pull innovation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 1-15, September.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:653. 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: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.