Do Good Citizens Need Good Laws? Economics and the Expressive Function
Theoretical Inquiries in Law, forthcoming
26 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 21, 2020
We explore the conditions under which adding pro-social preferences to the canonical negligence model changes the efficient damages rule or the harm from accidents. For a utilitarian lawmaker, making individuals empathetic with the victim of harm has no effect on either outcome. On the other hand, making individuals averse to harming others reduces the harm from accidents, though it has no effect on efficient damages. For an atomistic lawmaker who excludes pro-social preferences from social welfare, a taste for harm aversion or perfect empathy can reduce efficient damages, though neither has any effect on the harm from accidents. Causing people to act as if they are averse to harm creation, out of habit or moral obligation, reduces both the efficient amount of damages and total harm. In general, cultivating a taste or moral commitment against harm creation is useful while inculcating empathy for victims of harm is not.
Keywords: altruism, social preferences
JEL Classification: K00, D03, D64
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation