How Institutions Shape Morality
44 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2021
Date Written: December 28, 2020
We present the results of a randomized controlled trial on the effect of the introduction of formalized property rights on individuals' moral judgments and, in particular, on utilitarian morality. We show that institutions shape morality: being exposed to private property institutions makes individuals more utilitarian when confronted with moral dilemmas. Our result sheds light on a possible factor contributing to the variation of moral judgments across the globe and its geographical patterns, and has implications for the consequences of major institutional reforms — both intended, such as land-titling programs, and unintended, such as the fall of communism — on moral attitudes. A conjectural channel through which property affects morality is the loosening of social ties.
Keywords: property, utilitarianism, trolley problem, morality, moral machine
JEL Classification: K11, O13, Z10, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation