Inside and Outside Perspectives on Institutions: An Economic Theory of the Noble Lie
Journal of Contextual Economics, Forthcoming.
30 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2018 Last revised: 6 Jan 2021
Date Written: December 12, 2020
If there exist no incentive or selective mechanisms that make cooperation in large groups incentive-compatible under realistic circumstances, functional social institutions will require a divergence between subjective preferences and objective payoffs – a “noble lie”. This implies the existence of irreducible and irreconcilable “inside” and “outside” perspectives on social institutions; that is, between foundationalist and functionalist approaches, both of which have a long pedigree in political economy. The conflict between the two, and the inability in practice to dispense with either, has a number of surprising implications for human organizations, including the impossibility of algorithmic governance, the necessity of discretionary enforcement in the breach, and the difficulty of an ethical economics of institutions.
Keywords: Game Theory, Cooperation, Institutions, Public goods
JEL Classification: C73, A13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation