Responsibility and Economics

Martin-Luther Universitat Discussion Paper No. 2007-6

37 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2007

See all articles by Markus Beckmann

Markus Beckmann

Leuphana University Lueneburg

Ingo Pies

Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

Date Written: 2007


Empirically, responsibility is a concept increasingly made use of in order to address societal issues. The debate on corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship is a case in point. At the same time, it is a concept mainstream economics has, so far, hardly touched on. The paper shows that the application of economic reasoning to the responsibility concept can instruct a twofold learning process: First, the very tradition of economics allows to better understand and elaborate the semantics of responsibility. Here, the paper develops the concept of ordo-responsibility that differentiates between the initial basic game and the related meta-games. The focus thus shifts to the rule-setting processes and rule-finding discourses for which the actors can accept governance responsibility and discourse responsibility, respectively. Second, the rational-choice analysis of the responsibility concept also produces important insights for main-stream economic theory. Building on a simple model that delineates the responsibility aptitude of an actor, the paper explains why standard economics tends to attribute the rule-setting function exclusively to state actors. Yet, as the underlying nation-state paradigm depends on social determinants that are not universally given, such economic theory shows a double blind spot. Against this backdrop, the paper sketches out how to broaden the conventional perspective and identifies policy recommendations for state actors and business corporations.

Keywords: responsibility, institutional economics, constitutional economics, economic ethics, corporate citizenship, global governance, corporate social responsibility, semantics, governance, globalization

JEL Classification: A11, A13, D02, D63, M14

Suggested Citation

Beckmann, Markus and Pies, Ingo, Responsibility and Economics (2007). Martin-Luther Universitat Discussion Paper No. 2007-6. Available at SSRN: or

Markus Beckmann (Contact Author)

Leuphana University Lueneburg ( email )

Scharnhorststrasse 1
Lueneburg, 21314
+49(0)4131-677 2167 (Phone)
+49(0)4131-677 2186 (Fax)


Ingo Pies

Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg ( email )

Grosse Steinstrasse 73
Halle/Saale, DE Saxony-Anhalt 06108
+49 0 345 55 23420 (Phone)


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