Human Sacrifice

Posted: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Peter T. Leeson

Peter T. Leeson

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: November 12, 2012

Abstract

This paper develops a theory of rational human sacrifice: the purchase and ritual slaughter of innocent persons to appease divinities. I argue that human sacrifice is a technology for protecting property rights. It improves property protection by destroying part of sacrificing communities' wealth, which depresses the expected payoff of plundering them. Human sacrifice is a highly effective vehicle for destroying wealth to protect property rights because it's an excellent public meter of wealth destruction. Human sacrifice is spectacular, publicly communicating a sacrificer's destruction far and wide. And immolating a live person is nearly impossible to fake, verifying the amount of wealth a sacrificer has destroyed. To incentivize community members to contribute wealth for destruction, human sacrifice is presented as a religious obligation. To test my theory I investigate human sacrifice as practiced by the most significant and well-known society of ritual immolators in the modern era: the Konds of Orissa, India. Evidence from the Konds supports my theory's predictions.

Suggested Citation

Leeson, Peter T., Human Sacrifice (November 12, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2174562

Peter T. Leeson (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://ppe.mercatus.org/scholars/peter-leeson

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