Where Have All the Heroes Gone? A Self-Interested, Economic Theory of Heroism
Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance
Gregory D. Hess
Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
Claremont Colleges - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance
May 1, 2008
Robert Day School of Economics and Finance Research Paper No. 2008-1
Heroism is a valued part of any society, yet its realization depends on the decisions of individual actors and a public reward to individuals who undertake heroic actions. Military combat related activities provide a useful starting point for thinking about the empirical nature of heroism. Interestingly, if we define heroism by those who have been awarded military honors such as the Congressional Medal of Honor, the number of heroes has actually fallen in the past 35 years. We develop a theory to explain heroism in a rational decision-making framework, and we model the case in which individuals respond to danger to themselves and others based on the costs and benefits associated with acts of courage. We also provide insight into how a government may wish to optimally subsidize heroic actions. We then use our model to understand why the observed decline in heroism could, in fact, be both an optimal individual and social response.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
JEL Classification: H1, H5, H8
Date posted: June 18, 2008 ; Last revised: October 8, 2008
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