Defining Evil in an Economic Way

  • Carl D. Mildenberger


It is interesting that philosophy and psychology talk about evil while economics does not. To my knowledge, there exists no single economic work that explicitly uses the concept of evil in order to describe or explain human behavior. This complete non-consideration of evil behavior by economists is, to say the least, surprising. Given the long intellectual history of the concepts of moral and natural evil, it is surprising that there is no significant impact of these concepts in economics. Even more so as only recently economists started to talk about the normatively opposed concepts of altruism, fairness, and reciprocity (for example, Camerer, 2003; Fehr & Schmidt, 1999; Kagel & Roth, 1995). And Lorenz (1963/1998) finds that, from a biological and evolutionary background, ‘evil’ in the form of aggression is indispensable for the evolution of close-knit groups, trust, and cooperation. He says that in nature, we do not find love or friendship without aggression, because the former evolved as an evolutionary countermeasure to the latter. So where is the idea of evil in economics?


Social Conflict Moral Rule Ultimatum Game Public Good Game Bargaining Game 
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© Carl D. Mildenberger 2013

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  • Carl D. Mildenberger

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