A culture of rent seeking

SEUNG GINNY CHOI, VIRGIL HENRY STORR

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: Tullock [J Dev Econ 67(2):455–470, 1967] introduced the concept of rent seeking and highlighted the social costs associated with collecting and lobbying for or against tariffs, investing in human and physical capital to facilitate or protect against theft, and expending resources to establish a monopoly. A large portion of the rent-seeking literature suggests how formal and informal institutions impact for rent-seeking activities. Culture also affects rent seeking. Communities can have a culture of rent seeking (CoRS), i.e., a perception shared by members of a society that having influence over political allocations is an important and potentially preferable source of private benefit than other avenues of pursuing economic gain. In this paper, we explore how culture affects the nature and level of rent seeking that a society pursues, and whether institutional shifts can strengthen or break down a CoRS.

Individualism, Collectivism, and Trade

AIDIN HAJIKHAMENEH, ERIK O. KIMBROUGH

EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS

Abstract: While economists recognize the important role of formal institutions in the promotion of trade, there is increasing agreement that institutions are typically endogenous to culture, making it difficult to disentangle their separate contributions. Lab experiments that assign institutions exogenously and measure and control individual cultural characteristics can allow for clean identification of the effects of institutions, conditional on culture, and help us understand the relationship between behavior and culture, under a given institutional framework. We focus on cultural tendencies toward individualism/collectivism, which social psychologists highlight as an important determinant of many behavioral differences across groups and people. We design an experiment to explore the relationship between subjects’ degree of individualism/collectivism and their willingness to abandon a repeated, bilateral exchange relationship in order to seek potentially more lucrative trade with a stranger, under enforcement institutions of varying strength. Overall, we find that individualists tend to seek out trade more often than collectivists. A diagnostic treatment and additional analysis suggests that this difference may reflect both differential altruism/favoritism to in-group members and different reactions to having been cheated in the past. This difference is mitigated somewhat as the effectiveness of enforcement institutions increases. Nevertheless we see that cultural dispositions are associated with willingness to seek out trade, regardless of institutional environment.

Trust, Trade and Moral Progress: How Market Exchange Promotes Trustworthiness

JONATHAN ANOMALY

SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY AND POLICY, Volume 34, Issue 2

Abstract: Trust is important for a variety of social relationships. Trust facilitates trade, which increases prosperity and induces us to interact with people of different backgrounds on terms that benefit all parties. Trade promotes trustworthiness, which enables us to form meaningful as well as mutually beneficial relationships. In what follows, I argue that when we erect institutions that enhance trust and reward people who are worthy of trust, we create the conditions for a certain kind of moral progress.

Socialized View of Man vs. Rational Choice Theory: What Does Smith’s Sympathy Have to Say?

JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION

ELIAS L. KHALIL

Abstract: To explain the anomaly of cooperation in finitely repeated games, some economists advance a socialized view of man as an antidote to rational choice theory. This paper confronts these economists insofar as they trace the socialized view to Smith’s theory of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). TMS rather advances a view that anticipates rational choice theory. These economists misinterpret TMS because they fail to realize that Smith’s sympathy actually involves two functions of sympathy: one that determines the optimal decision and another that determines the command of that decision. The dual function of sympathy parallels the two senses of rational choice: rationality as making the optimal decision and rationality as commanding that decision. Thus Smith’s sympathy does not support the socialized view of man.

As an Economy Becomes More Developed, Do People Become Less Altruistic?

PAPAR KANANURAK & AEGGARCHAT SIRISANKANAN

THE JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES

Abstract: Inter-household private transfers are one of the main informal insurance mechanisms that prevalently implemented in developing countries. Unfortunately, most of the literatures investigates the private transfer motives at static perspectives. Therefore, this paper took advantage to investigate the private transfers motives in Thailand over the past three decades in order to examine any changing patterns of transfer motives. The empirical results from econometric methods indicated that as the economy in Thailand continues to develop, altruism remains dominant for private inter-household motives in Thailand and persists over time, not only in rural but also urban areas of the country.

Geography, Transparency, and Institutions

JORAM MAYSHAR, OMER MOAV, and ZVIKA NEEMAN

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 3

Abstract: We propose a theory in which geographic attributes explain cross-regional institutional differences in (1) the scale of the state, (2) the distribution of power within state hierarchy, and (3) property rights to land. In this theory, geography and technology affect the transparency of farming, and transparency, in turn, affects the elite’s ability to appropriate revenue from the farming sector, thus affecting institutions. We apply the theory to explain differences between the institutions of ancient Egypt, southern Mesopotamia, and northern Mesopotamia, and also discuss its relevance to modern phenomena.

Individualistic values, institutional trust, and interventionist attitudes

HANS PITLIK and MARTIN RODE

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 3

Abstract: A popular explanation for economic development is that ‘individualistic values’ provide a mind-set that is favorable to the creation of growth-promoting institutions. The present paper investigates the relationship between individualistic values and personal attitudes toward government intervention. We consider two key components of an individualistic culture to be particularly relevant for attitude formation: self-direction (‘social’ individualism) and self-determination (‘economic’ individualism). Results indicate that both are negatively associated with interventionist attitudes. Effects of self-direction are much weaker though, than self-determination. Moreover, the effects of self-direction are mitigated through higher trust in the state and lower confidence in companies, while that is not the case for self-determination values. We conclude that especially economic individualism supports attitudes conducive to the formation of formal market-friendly institutions.