nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2017‒03‒19
two papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Why Being Wrong can be Right: Magical Warfare Technologies and the Persistence of False Beliefs By Nathan Nunn; Raul Sanchez de la Sierra
  2. Are Religions for Sale? Evidence from the Swedish Church Revolt over Same-Sex Marriage By Bengtsson, Niklas

  1. By: Nathan Nunn; Raul Sanchez de la Sierra
    Abstract: Across human societies, one sees many examples of deeply rooted and widely-held beliefs that are almost certainly untrue. Examples include beliefs about witchcraft, magic, ordeals, and superstitions. Why are such incorrect beliefs so prevalent and how do they persist? We consider this question through an examination of superstitions and magic associated with conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Focusing on superstitions related to bulletproofing, we provide theory and case-study evidence showing how these incorrect beliefs persist. Although harmful at the individual-level, we show that they generate Pareto efficient outcomes that have group-level benefits.
    JEL: P16 Z1 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2017–03
  2. By: Bengtsson, Niklas (Department of Economics)
    Abstract: Religious leaders sometimes condemn progressive social norms. In this paper, I revisit David Hume’s hypothesis that secular states can “bribe” churches into adopting less strict religious doctrines. The hypothesis is difficult to test due to reverse causality: more liberal theologies may attract more political support in the first place. To circumvent this problem, I focus on a theological conflict over same-sex marriage within the Church of Sweden and take advantage of political regulations that effectively make some parishes shareholders of the church’s state-protected property. The shares used for statistical identification are tied to property rights assigned more than 300 years ago, and they cannot be sold, traded or amended by the individual parishes. I find that priests in shareholding parishes are less likely to publicly oppose same-sex marriage. The effect is stronger in parishes with more conservative members. The combined results are consistent with a model of clerical opportunism, in which access to political rents increases the clergy’s loyalty to the political sponsors relative to the local community.
    Keywords: religious orthodoxy; same-sex marriage; subsidies; rent-seeking; religious market hypothesis
    JEL: H20 H30 Z12
    Date: 2017–03–10

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