Bureaucratic Altruism in International Transfers: The Samaritan’s Dilemma Revisited

36 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2024 Last revised: 6 May 2024

See all articles by Christopher J. Coyne

Christopher J. Coyne

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Abigail R Hall

University of Tampa

Yahya Alshamy

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2, 2024

Abstract

Conventional wisdom tells us that prosocial feelings, such as altruism, are desirable and should be promoted as they yield positive social outcomes. However, the consequences of other-regarding behaviors are broadly ambiguous and may have unintended consequences, especially when they must pass through institutional filters. In this paper, we use the Samaritan’s Dilemma model to understand the perverse unintended consequences of institutionalized altruism expressed through international transfer organizations (ITOs), the collection of government and non-government international organizations involved in transferring foreign assistance. To do so, we alter some of the assumptions of the classic Samaritan’s Dilemma model to account for (1) altruism channeled through ITO bureaucracy, which we call bureaucratized altruism, and (2) the recipient affects that extend beyond a single person to include various heterogeneous individuals. We argue that in the context of foreign transfers, the Samaritan’s Dilemma entails interaction effects that expand recipient harm beyond mere loss of self-reliance.

Keywords: altruism, bureaucratized altruism, corruption, international development, foreign aid, Samaritan’s Dilemma, social conflict

JEL Classification: F35, O19, D64

Suggested Citation

Coyne, Christopher J. and Hall, Abigail R and Alshamy, Yahya, Bureaucratic Altruism in International Transfers: The Samaritan’s Dilemma Revisited (March 2, 2024). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 24-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4746107 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4746107

Christopher J. Coyne (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.ccoyne.com/

Abigail R Hall

University of Tampa ( email )

401 W Kennedy Blvd Box O
Tampa, FL 33606

Yahya Alshamy

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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