Salvation as a Selective Incentive

32 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2005

See all articles by Jonathan Klick

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; Erasmus School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center


As club goods, religions face the problem of free riding. Smaller religious clubs, such as cults or sects, can often surmount this problem through communal pressures or by requiring their members to provide easily monitored signals. Generally, however, such tactics will be unavailable or too costly for large denominations, and, as such, these denominations must look for other techniques to avoid free riding. This paper argues that the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by faith and works serves as an Olsonian selective incentive, and presents empirical evidence in support of this claim. Specifically, I show that Catholics contribute significantly more to their churches as they approach death than do members of Protestant denominations. More generally, this paper suggests that church doctrines influence behavioral incentives and religious leaders may be able to capitalize on these behavioral effects for the benefit of their church.

Keywords: Economics, Religion, Law, Free-riding, Institutions, Public Choice

JEL Classification: H0, K0, L0

Suggested Citation

Klick, Jonathan, Salvation as a Selective Incentive. Available at SSRN:

Jonathan Klick (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

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Erasmus School of Law ( email )

3000 DR Rotterdam

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
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Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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