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Social Preferences and Public Economics: Are good laws a substitute for good citizens?


  • Samuel Bowles



Laws and policies designed to harness self-regarding preferences to public ends may fail when they compromise the beneficial effects of pro-social preferences. Experimental evidence indicates that incentives that appeal to self interest may reduce the salience of intrinsic motivation, reciprocity, and other civic motives. Motivational crowding in also occurs. The evidence for these processes is reviewed and a model of optimal explicit incentives is presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles, 2007. "Social Preferences and Public Economics: Are good laws a substitute for good citizens?," Department of Economics University of Siena 496, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:496

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ait-Sahalia, Yacine, 1996. "Testing Continuous-Time Models of the Spot Interest Rate," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 9(2), pages 385-426.
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    3. Ball, Clifford A. & Torous, Walter N., 1996. "Unit roots and the estimation of interest rate dynamics," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 215-238, June.
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    6. John C. Cox & Jonathan E. Ingersoll Jr. & Stephen A. Ross, 2005. "A Theory Of The Term Structure Of Interest Rates," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Theory Of Valuation, chapter 5, pages 129-164 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    7. Barucci, Emilio & Reno, Roberto, 2002. "On measuring volatility and the GARCH forecasting performance," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 183-200, July.
    8. David A. Chapman & Neil D. Pearson, 2000. "Is the Short Rate Drift Actually Nonlinear?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(1), pages 355-388, February.
    9. Federico M. Bandi & Peter C. B. Phillips, 2003. "Fully Nonparametric Estimation of Scalar Diffusion Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 241-283, January.
    10. Ait-Sahalia, Yacine, 1996. "Nonparametric Pricing of Interest Rate Derivative Securities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(3), pages 527-560, May.
    11. Chapman, David A & Long, John B, Jr & Pearson, Neil D, 1999. "Using Proxies for the Short Rate: When Are Three Months Like an Instant?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(4), pages 763-806.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rodriguez-Sickert, Carlos & Guzmán, Ricardo Andrés & Cárdenas, Juan Camilo, 2008. "Institutions influence preferences: Evidence from a common pool resource experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 215-227, July.

    More about this item


    Social preferences; implementation theory; incentive contracts; incomplete contracts; framing; behavioral experiments; motivational crowding out; ethical norms; constitutions;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D52 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Incomplete Markets
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior


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