Naughty or nice?


Has anyone calculated the economic value of people being nice?

Tim Harford, Undercover economist:

Even economists would recognise that niceness is valuable for its own sake. But you are right, it is also good for the economy. Steve Knack, an economist who specialises in governance, trust and social capital (translation: niceness) once told me that, taking a broad definition of trust, it would explain the difference between the per capita income of the US and Somalia. That is, niceness and its cousins are worth about 99.5 per cent of US national income.

There are limits, though. When people trust each other, they become vulnerable to cheats.

Read it all.

And then there’s the question, “Does a belief in fate make you more likely to become a cheat and crook?”

It turned out that students who had read the anti-free will quote were significantly more likely to cheat on the mental arithmetic test; their exposure to some basic scientific spin – your soul is a piece of meat – led to an increase in amorality. Of course, this is a relatively mild ethical lapse – as Schooler notes,

There’s more here.

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