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The intrinsic value of decision rights

  • Björn Bartling
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Holger Herz

Philosophers, psychologists, and economists have long argued that certain decision rights carry not only instrumental value but may also be valuable for their own sake. The ideas of autonomy, freedom, and liberty derive their intuitive appeal - at least partly - from an assumed positive intrinsic value of decision rights. Providing clean evidence for the existence of this intrinsic value and measuring its size, however, is intricate. Here, we develop a method capable of achieving these goals. The data reveal that the large majority of our subjects intrinsically value decision rights beyond their instrumental benefit. The intrinsic valuation of decision rights has potentially important consequences for corporate governance, human resource management, and optimal job design: it may explain why managers value power, why employees appreciate jobs with task discretion, why individuals sort into self-employment, and why the reallocation of decision rights is often very difficult and cumbersome. Our method and results may also prove useful in developing an empirical revealed preference foundation for concepts such as "freedom of choice" and "individual autonomy".

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Paper provided by Department of Economics - University of Zurich in its series ECON - Working Papers with number 120.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision: Jun 2014
Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:120
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  1. Owens, David & Grossman , Zachary & Fackler , Ryan, 2012. "The Control Premium: A Preference for Payoff Autonomy," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt5bg845s1, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
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