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Integrity and Agreement

Economics When Principles Also Matter

Lanse Minkler

Publication Year: 2008

Two impressive features of this book are its clarity of purpose and the breadth of disciplinary resources to which it appeals. ---Geoffrey Brennan, Professor of Economics, Australian National University "Facing massive evidence that people do not act generally as self-regarding payoff maximizers, economists have become increasingly interested in issues of cooperation, altruism, identity, and morality. Lanse Minkler's contribution is particularly important because of his powerful argument that the evidence of cooperation cannot be explained adequately by a more complicated preference function. A disposition for honesty is not simply a matter of preference---it is an issue of personal integrity, identity, and commitment. This has major implications. In particular we have to reconstruct the theory of the firm from first principles. No economist committed to the pursuit of truth should ignore this volume." ---Geoffrey Hodgson, Research Professor in Business Studies, University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Institutional Economics "This is an interesting account of the role of integrity---preference-integrity and commitment-integrity---on economic behavior. While drawing knowledge from traditional subfields of economics, it also includes insights gleaned from psychology and philosophy, showing their effects in varied areas such as political behavior, the employment relation, religion, and human rights. In this exciting volume Lanse Minkler does an excellent job of incorporating various newer concepts of fairness and integrity into economic analysis." ---Ernst Fehr, Professor and Head of the Chair of Microeconomics and Experimental Economic Research and Director of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich Social scientists who treat humans as rational beings driven exclusively by self-interest ignore a key factor shaping human behavior: the influence of moral principles. Starting with the elementary principle "lying is wrong," economic theorist Lanse Minkler examines the ways in which a sense of morality guides real-life decision making. Whether one feels committed to specific or general moral principles, Minkler explains, integrity demands consistently acting on that commitment. Because truthfulness is the most basic moral principle, integrity means honesty. And honesty extends beyond truth-telling. It requires good faith when entering an agreement and then standing by one's word. From this premise, Minkler explores the implications of integrity for contracts between buyers and sellers and understandings between employers and employees. He also finds a role for integrity in an individual's religious vows, an elected official's accountability to constituents, and a community's obligation to human rights. Integrity and Agreement reintroduces morality as a factor for economists, sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists to consider in their efforts to comprehend human behavior. Lanse Minkler is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Connecticut.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Economics, Cognition, and Society


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p. ix

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Chapter 1. Why Integrity?

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pp. 1-11

Consider the proposition “lying is wrong.” True or false? My experience has shown that most people quickly answer “true.”Not surprisingly, the question tends to be a little more problematic for economists. The first time I asked someone whether lying is wrong, it was of a job candidate.When...

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Chapter 2. Preference-Integrity

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pp. 12-21

Some people do not like to lie. Some people really do not like to lie. Others may be indifferent toward acts of lying, or may even like to lie, especially if doing so can help them achieve other objectives. But to the extent that we model lying,we tend to focus more on the consequences of a lie on other preferences or constraints. For example...

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Chapter 3. Commitment-Integrity

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pp. 22-53

For many, the shortcomings of preference-integrity will suggest the need for a rendering more faithful to the way we usually think about integrity. The version in this chapter addresses that concern by introducing the notion of commitment-integrity, which, most...

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Chapter 4. Social Dilemmas and Game Theory

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pp. 54-73

Game theory is the study of interdependent decision making. It analyzes situations in which outcomes depend on the decisions of more than one individual. Social dilemmas are a particular type of game in which the individual’s self-interest conflicts with the optimal social outcome. For instance, self-interested individuals optimize...

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Chapter 5. Lying, Contracts, and Political Behavior

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pp. 74-86

The previous three chapters provided the theoretical foundations for integrity. This chapter begins the discussion of how integrity, particularly commitment- integrity, works in different contexts. It deals with legal contracts, which turn out to be fairly straightforward, and then moves to a more nuanced area, the political agreement...

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Chapter 6. The Employment Agreement

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pp. 87-106

Of all the myriad types of contracts, the employment contract is perhaps most fundamental. Two reasons jump out. First, it underlies the theory of the firm, a topic itself so central because to understand firms is to gain a deep understanding of how markets work. Second, almost everyone but the most or least privileged has worked...

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Chapter 7. Religious Agreements: Beyond the Minimalist Principle

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pp. 107-116

Religious people seem to do odd things.1 They sometimes shave their heads, pray a lot, and refrain from eating and consuming things they would otherwise enjoy. Some are gentle and compassionate, while others seem especially prone to intolerance and violence. In this chapter I will describe how the notion of religious integrity...

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Chapter 8. The Social Contract and Human Rights

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pp. 117-127

This chapter considers the normative relationship between integrity and the social contract, specifically a human rights–based social contract. A social contract is an agreement between individuals that metes out rights and obligations, and justifies various roles for political entities. Individuals may largely be anonymous to one another, but interrelated nevertheless because of the need for interaction...

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Chapter 9. On the Possibility of Integrity

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pp. 128-141

Having explored what integrity is and how it works, the final question becomes, what factors influence its extent? Specifically, what hinders integrity, and what could promote its development? This chapter investigates those kinds of questions by considering moral training, moral leadership, and integrity- enhancing...

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Chapter 10. Conclusion

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pp. 142-149

I have argued that integrity exists, and that it is economically meaningful. In this concluding chapter I will briefly summarize some of the main points, suggest future research avenues, and discuss how integrity might be placed in or compared with other virtues. The last point means to address those who value different ethical systems, like the feminist notion of an ethic of care or Aristotelian virtue ethics...


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pp. 151-161


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pp. 163-169

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024223
E-ISBN-10: 0472024221
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116430
Print-ISBN-10: 0472116436

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 2 tables
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Economics, Cognition, and Society
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 587497326
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Integrity and Agreement

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Subject Headings

  • Truthfulness and falsehood.
  • Choice (Psychology).
  • Integrity.
  • Economics -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Self-interest.
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