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Charity: Altruism or Cooperative Egoism?* Peter Hammond If a Covenant be made, wherein neither of the parties performe presendy, but trust one another; in the condition of meer Nature, (which is a condition of Warre of every man against every man,) upon any reasonable suspition, it is Voyd: But if there be a common Power set over them both, with right and force sufficient to compell performance; it is not Voyd. For he that performeth first, has no assurance the other will performe after; because the bonds of words are too weak to bridle mens ambition, avarice, anger, and other Passions, without the feare of some coerceive Power; which in the condition of meer Nature, where all men are equall, and judges of the justnesse of their own fears cannot possibly be supposed. And therefore he which performeth first, does but betray himselfe to his enemy; contrary to the Right (he can never abandon) of defending his life, and means of living. [Hobbes's "Leviathan," chapter XIV] INTRODUCTION It is evident that altruism can be invoked to explain any charitable behavior we may observe. But it is not quite obvious that altruism must be invoked to explain all charitable behavior. May not a person be charitable because he ., am especially conscious of and grateful for the influence upon this paper of discussions with and comments by Kenneth Arrow, Christopher Bliss, Avinash Dixit, James Mirrlees, Edmund Phelps and Amartya Sen. But none of these is responsible for the contents. 115 116 • ALTRUISM, MORALITY, AND ECONOMIC THEORY believes that his present charity increases the likelihood that charity will also occur in the future, when the person may himself be in need? If so, charity is compatible with complete egoism, together with certain beliefs about the future. The beliefs that an egoist needs to have, in order for charity to be rational, can be of two somewhat different kinds. He may believe that, even though he is not altruistic, charitable behavior may encourage altruism in the future, when he may be in need. He may, for example, believe that, if his children see him being charitable, they are more likely to grow up to be altruistic. Of course, he may encourage this by exhortation as well, but such words usually need the backing of deeds. Alternatively, the egoist may believe that he is involved in a dynamic game. In this game, intertemporal cooperation is possible, and takes the form of charitable behavior. The first alternative-in which future tastes are influenced-is no more than a temporary departure from altruistic charity. The egoist is only charitable because he hopes that this will bring about altruistic charity if he needs it. This explanation of charity is not very convincing. Moreover, it is hard to say very much more about it. Accordingly, I shall not discuss it further. The second alternative-in which charity is an outcome of a game-is much more interesting.l It is also closely related to the theory of social contracts. Charitable behavior could be regarded as complying with a social contract. The egoist is worried that, if he breaks the contract, then many others may also decide to break the contract later on, with the result that the egoist'S needs are not adequately met if he should ever require help in the future. It is evident that charity is only likely to be an outcome of a dynamic game. In a static game, the rich are in no real danger of becoming poor. They may bribe the poor in order to gain their cooperation, but bribes are fairly easily distinguished from charitable gifts, it would seem. It is only when the return on a charitable gift is uncertain or fairly remote in time that we are likely to regard it as charity rather than a bribe. It should also be observed that games in normal form miss the whole point. A cooperative solution-e.g., a core solution-may well involve egoists making transfers in different periods. An egoist will be prepared to exchange income in periods when he is rich for income when he is poor. But these are clearly not charitable transfers; they are merely transactions in a simple financial market-or intertemporal exchange economy. But this is not the main objection to the normal form I have in mind. Rather, the problem is that which Hobbes discusses. If the egoist makes a charitable transfer now, what guarantee has he that charitable transfers take place later...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781610446792
Related ISBN
9780871546593
MARC Record
OCLC
908573169
Pages
242
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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