Duty is what one expects from others*

* Oscar Wilde quote

Cass Sunstein digs up a nice paper that draws on the social norms literature to explain common empirical results that people contribute more to public goods like charity or public radio when they see others contributing. Economists Kjell Arne Brekke, Gorm Kipperberg, and Karine Nyborg invoke the specific norm of responsibility – not a staple of standard economic theory – which they say is activated when someone recognizes that her individual actions have an impact on the public good and accept their role in contributing to it.

A duty-oriented individual prefers to keep a self-image as a decent or responsible kind of person, someone who can be trusted to do what “a person such as I do in a situation such as this.” Further, if he does not live up to his perceived responsibilities, this will impair his self-image.

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