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The responsibility increases with closeness of relationship, therefore relatives and friends tend to punish the rule breaker harder. The breaking of a norm also acts as a 'bad name' for rule breaker's relatives and friends, which, further, prompts them to punish him. Since, punishing the rule breaker also benefits non-punishers, some people may start selling the punishment activity, if the benefited people, due to their internalization of the norm, pay punishers in the form of money, support etc.

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Dreber, A. Rand, D. As a political scientist I will simply rely on an argument from my authority here: both claims are false. Voters do not know these things. Or are you simply imputing to them what you think that you know? The signaling view implies that voters are omniscient about the odds against their votes counting and about the actual effects of the policies they favor. What is crucial in democratic politics is that the effects of public policies in a complex order are difficult to discern, so voters can easily disagree about—and easily be wrong about—how to do good?

What is to know? Everyone knows that he is just one of milllions — or whatever the relevant number is. On the other hand, Ivy League liberal-arts majors are far more likely than average to become political activists, politicians, and journalists.

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Indeed, I always insist that the knowledge problem supports Humean status quo bias, which should temper our deregulatory fever. But we should not imagine politicians are more interested in doing good than in signaling goodness. You ask for my evidence contradicting your view without laying the view out clearly enough to do so, I think.

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In such a state of rational ignorance, they prefer the policies that signal goodness. As you know, the Westie study Westie, Frank R. People tend to follow their incentives and preferences without careful regard for logical consistency. None of this touches your point that the world is complex so that serious people can disagree on policy. I just said that it is better to signal goodness than do good. For voters, that follows from the low stakes. They are rationally ignorant and thus prefer policies that signal goodness.

Signaling goodness : social rules and public choice / Phillip J. Nelson and Kenneth V. Greene.

Only those will survive who are effective at signaling goodness while in fact concentrating benefits and dispersing costs. I mean, really, you know, Ellsworth Toohey and all that.

Signaling Goodness

If they care about doing good, then they do have to signal this or something else that is popular in order to get elected—but that is a means to the end of doing some good. Think about Barack Obama. He could have graduated from Harvard Law School and become a successful lawyer very easily, and a tenured position at the U. He also could easily have stayed with being a successful author. I know them to be sincere ideologues. But it tells us to expect lots of bogus signals of goodness. That assumes or maintains the disputed hypothesis that they they vote to affect the outcome rather than express themselves.

Mario—You are right of course.

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Let me pick up the particular case of Obama, Jeff. If he is good in substance, why are his policies so close to Bush?


Why did his administration argue futilely before the Supreme Court that the right of habeas corpus does not apply to prisons in Bagram? And so on. I am disappointed — bitterly disappointed — in Obama. But I am not really surprised.

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Obama is a politician and only those politicians will survive who are effective at signaling goodness while in fact concentrating benefits and dispersing costs. I am a do-gooder, I confess. In my forensic-science do-goodery I meet lots of other do-gooders. I believe in their sincerity. I see it. But not one of them is an elected official! Contributor of articles to professional journals, including Review of Social Economy and Public Choice. Kenneth V. Greene was born September 26, , in Brooklyn, New York.

He received his B. John's University, and his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Virginia , in and respectively. He began his career as a visiting professor at the University of Colorado. Since then, he has risen to the rank of distinguished professor of economics. Greene has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in public expenditures, public choice, public finance, micro- and macroeconomics, and urban and welfare economics at the SUNY Binghamton, for over twenty-five years.


As a renowned expert in his field, Greene has published many articles in professional journals, as well as authoring noted books in the field of economics. He published his first book, Fiscal Interactions in a Metropolitan Area, in In , Greene and colleague Phillip J. Nelson produced Signaling Goodness: Social Rules and Public Choice in which they examine the effects of reputation signaling on economic politics.