34 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2008 Last revised: 8 Oct 2008
Date Written: May 1, 2008
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.
JEL Classification: H1, H5, H8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Blomberg, S. Brock and Hess, Gregory D. and Raviv, Yaron, Where Have All the Heroes Gone? A Self-Interested, Economic Theory of Heroism (May 1, 2008). Robert Day School of Economics and Finance Research Paper No. 2008-1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1147136 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1147136