Moral Motives and Political Mechanisms

  • Alan Hamlin
Part of the Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy book series (SEEP)


In this essay, I will attempt to sketch out some of the consequences for the study of political institutions that follow from taking both rationality and morality as constitutive features of individual agents. This represents a departure from more standard lines of economic analysis which typically focus on rationality as the central characteristic of individual agency, and then address questions concerning morality either in terms of the aggregation of individual utilities (in the generally utilitarian tradition), or in terms of principles that might be agreed by rational agents (in the generally contractarian tradition). These standard economic approaches draw a stark divide between motivation and justification. Policies, or institutions, may be justified by their moral properties, but these moral properties can play no direct role in motivating the individuals concerned either with choosing the policies/institutions or with living under them. This aspect of economic analysis is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because it focuses attention on what might generally be called the compliance problem; that is, the issue of structuring the environment so as to ensure that agents will comply with justified institutions and rules, without simply assuming com pliant motivation. This strength is shown most clearly in the various appli cations of ‘invisible hand’ theorems which serve to show that even self-interested individuals can be led to produce socially efficient outcomes.


Public Choice Moral Belief Moral Behaviour Moral Motive Direct Democracy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

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  • Alan Hamlin

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