Laws and Norms

Bénabou, Roland and Tirole, Jean (2010) Laws and Norms.

[img]
Preview
Text
Download (459kB) | Preview
Official URL: http://tse-fr.eu/pub/25228

Abstract

This paper
analyzes how private decisions and public policies are shaped by personal and societal preferences ("values"), material or other explicit incentives ("laws") and social sanctions or rewards ("norms"). It will build up from basic psychological, social and economic determinants of individual behavior, then examine how these forces interact (through strategic behavior, general equilibrium, social learning and communication), drawing new testable
predictions and policy implications. It first examines how honor, stigma and social norms (a social multiplier, more generally)
arise from individuals' signaling behaviors and inferences, and when they are strengthened or undermined by the presence of
how they interact with material incentives. It then characterizes optimal incentive-setting in the presence of norms, deriving in particular appropriately modified versions of Pigou and Ramsey taxation.

Next, incorporating the fact that the distribution of preferences in society is only imperfectly known by agents
Incorporating agents' imperfect knowledge of the distribution of preferences allowing for such aggregate uncertainty (in addition to individual heterogeneity)
opens up to analysis several new questions. The first is social psychologists' practice of "norms-based interventions", namely campaigns and messages that seek to alter people's perceptions of what constitutes "normal" behavior or values among their peers. The model makes clear how such interventions operate, but also how their effectiveness is limited by a credibility problem, particularly when the descriptive and prescriptive norms conflict.

The next main question is the expressive role of law.
The choices of legislators and other principals naturally reflect their knowledge of societal preferences, and these same values or
"community standards" are also what
are also what shapes social judgements and moral sentiments.
Setting law thus means both imposing material incentives and sending a message about society's values, and hence about the norms that different behaviors are likely to encounter. The analysis, combining an informed principal with individually signaling agents, makes precise the notion of expressive law, determining in particular when a weakening or a strengthening of incentives is called for. Pushing further this logic, the paper also sheds light on why societies are often resistant to the message of economists, as well as on why may
they renounce certain policies, such as "cruel and unusual punishments", irrespective of effectiveness considerations, in order to express their being collective
"civilized".

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Language: English
Date: October 2010
Uncontrolled Keywords: motivation, incentives, esteem, reputation, honor, stigma, social norms, culture, taxation, law, punishments, norms-based interventions, expressive content
JEL codes: D64 - Altruism
D82 - Asymmetric and Private Information
H41 - Public Goods
K1 - Basic Areas of Law
K42 - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
Z13 - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology
Subjects: B- ECONOMIE ET FINANCE
Divisions: TSE-R (Toulouse)
Site: UT1
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2014 17:21
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2018 13:22
OAI ID: oai:tse-fr.eu:25228
URI: http://publications.ut-capitole.fr/id/eprint/15167

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Downloads

Downloads per month over past year