ECON1436: Economics and Morality





Questions related to morality pervade the economic and political discourse. However, traditionally, economists have paid little attention to the structure and consequences of people’s moral concerns. This course introduces students to research in an emerging field that studies the determinants and consequences of heterogeneity in moral reasoning through the lens of economics. The main objective of the class is to highlight (i) how moral reasoning matters for economic and political outcomes, and (ii) how economic needs in turn generate particular moral systems. To understand the bidirectional relationship between economics and morality, we will study empirical research papers that consider questions such as: What is the difference between universalizing and relational approaches to moral reasoning, and how do these matter for economics? How do Americans’ moral intuitions vary across space and over time? What is the role of moral values in U.S. presidential elections, or for policy preferences related to redistribution or the military? Why do Republicans and Democrats give to different types of charities? What are the functional economic origins of morality? How and why are moral systems culturally variable? From a methodological viewpoint, the class uses empirical techniques to study morality-related concepts and ideas from psychology and anthropology.