دانلود مقاله ISI انگلیسی شماره 32954
عنوان فارسی مقاله

حماقت داوطلب و انسان اجتماعی و اقتصادی: برخی از افکار در نوع دوستی، عقلانیت، و جامعه

کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
32954 1999 18 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید محاسبه نشده
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عنوان انگلیسی
The volunteer’s folly and socio-economic man: some thoughts on altruism, rationality, and community
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : The Journal of Socio-Economics, Volume 28, Issue 4, 1999, Pages 475–492

کلمات کلیدی
’ حماقت داوطلب - انسان اقتصادی - اجتماعی - نوع دوستی - عقلانیت - جامعه -
پیش نمایش مقاله
پیش نمایش مقاله حماقت داوطلب و انسان اجتماعی و اقتصادی: برخی از افکار در نوع دوستی، عقلانیت، و جامعه

چکیده انگلیسی

Altruistic volunteers are either not truly altruistic or not rational, according to traditional economic analysis. They are not altruistic if they volunteer to receive a utility benefit, and they are not rational if they choose to volunteer when monetary contribution would be more efficient. Economic man is a fool to volunteer. However, socio-economic man is shrewder. Socio-economic man is moderately deontological, path-dependent, nonmonetary, nonrationally motivated, and community-minded. This paper explores corresponding elements of socio-economic rationality that allow for rational, altruistic volunteers. The five elements around which I structure this paper are: 1) nonconsequentialist reasons; 2) constitutive choices; 3) pricelessness; 4) nonrational motivation; and 5) community preference production.

مقدمه انگلیسی

Why do altruistic, part-time volunteers donate time and effort to a project, when that project could be more efficiently completed by full-time specialists paid out of monetary contributions from the would-be volunteers? This question emerges from the observation that some white-collar professionals work weekends for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for low-income families. Suppose one asks such an altruist, “Why do you volunteer?” The answer normally follows from the type of service organization, and in this case might be, “Because I want to help provide housing for the needy.” An economist may cynically retort, “If your real objective is to provide housing, then you should work more at your profession and pay a carpenter to build the houses.” That is what specialization and exchange tells us. If a lawyer’s services are valued at $200 per hour by the market, then he or she shouldn’t spend time driving in nails, an activity valued at only $50 per hour. Using these prices, the lawyer could work for eight hours in the office and generate enough income to donate thirty-two hours of expert home-building. Instead, the hypothetical lawyer works those eight hours on the construction site, providing just eight hours of amateur home-building.1 Because of this inefficiency, I call the decision to contribute time and effort rather than money the “volunteer’s folly.” I use the terms “volunteer” and “personal altruist,” as opposed to “money altruist,” interchangeably. My framing of this scenario clearly implies that the increase in others’ welfare those altruists create depends exclusively on the physical product of their volunteer efforts. Less restrictive conceptions of welfare restore rationality to personal altruism. Daly and Cobb (1994) address the interaction of economic and noneconomic welfare in constituting total welfare (p. 146). Noneconomic welfare includes so-called “quality-of-life” matters that are not reflected in production statistics. Among these could be “community spirit” or even volunteerism itself; so such redefinitions of welfare could explain the apparent irrationality. But inclusion of these matters makes a liar out of the altruist who maintains that the objective for volunteering is, in fact, the physical product. The volunteer’s lie can be understood, and perhaps excused. For economists habitually evaluate the rationality of actions, even actions having merely incidental economic aspects, according to their “economic efficiency.” (Unfortunately, the efficiency bias has been adopted outside the economics profession by those who want similarly to endow their judgments with an air of scientific objectivity.) Aware of this bias, an altruist is likely to give the inquisitor the only answer he or she is likely to appreciate, that is, one that relies on observable productivity. Still, the lie is a lie. There are no valid altruistic reasons for preferring to donate time rather than money, according to neoclassical economic analysis. Those volunteers who justify their actions solely by reference to the physical product are irrational because they could provide more with less by subcontracting. People who claim that they volunteer to achieve some outcome may be simply mistaken. One can uphold the rationality of altruists in general by arguing that people often do not know exactly why they do what they do. From this standpoint, the truth or falsity of altruists’ stated reasons is simply irrelevant to the rationality of their acts. Neither utility maximization nor pure altruism need be construed as cognitive processes; indeed, utility maximization seldom is. On this count, the volunteers could be engaged in something like building community spirit, a tacit goal that could not be achieved through monetary contributions. If noncognitive utility maximization can underlie revealed preference theory, then community building can certainly underlie volunteer house-building. But to conclude that the volunteer is mistaken or is a liar when he or she contends that the goal is simply “to build a house” strikes me as an ungracious way of preserving his or her rationality. Only egoistically motivated persons who admit that they volunteer because of the utility benefit they receive are both rational and truthful, according to economists. I suspect most volunteers would rather be portrayed as irrational liars than as exclusively self-interested persons. And so my purpose in this paper is to explain the rationality of personal altruists who correctly state that their goal is simply, for example, “to build a house.” The economist, eager to expose another instance of homo-economicus masquerading as an altruist, will conclude that part-time volunteers are not truly altruistic after all; and that the expectation of subjective utility, derived directly from the volunteer work, is the volunteer’s primary, if not exclusive, motivation. Not surprisingly, some economists are convinced that altruism has been defined out of economics. My argument bears only tangentially on that important debate. This paper does not speak to those who accept psychological egoism as the correct theory of economic behavior. Rather this paper assumes the truth of the more nuanced conception of economic behavior articulated by Sen (1977), among others. To make this exposition as concrete as possible, I will focus on a particular act of altruistic volunteering, that is, house-building. However, many of the considerations discussed here apply by extension to the institution of volunteerism. I will argue that the volunteers may be true altruists and still rationally decide to contribute labor rather than money. By “true altruists” I mean people whose altruistic acts do not depend for their performance on any anticipated subjective utility benefit. There may be incidental psychic benefits to the personal altruists, but the anticipation of such is not necessary to his or her choice to volunteer. A true altruist wants to satisfy someone else’s desires, whereas the “economic altruist” wants only to satisfy his or her own desire that someone else be aided. (see Nagel, 1970, n., p. 81.) That another’s happiness cannot be obtained without the contingent effect of one’s satisfaction does not undermine or even threaten the true altruism of an act, though as a matter of investigation one cannot be observed apart from the other. Consistent with my description of who a true altruist is, I adopt a broad definition of altruism, one that encompasses a wide range of other-interested behavior, of which volunteering is but one example. In The Heart of Altruism, Monroe (1996) defines altruism as “behavior intended to benefit another, even when this risks possible sacrifice to the welfare of the actor” (p. 6). Monroe goes on to argue that her definition implies that “[t]he act must carry some possibility of diminution in [the actor’s] welfare” (p. 6, italics mine). I adopt her definition, though not the implication she draws from it. In a trivial way, any behavior, indeed one’s very existence, brings with it the possibility of injury; but Monroe cites examples in her book that suggest she has in mind peril of a more substantial nature, peril that arises more or less directly from the act of purported altruism. By contrast, I accept that some volunteers may be so philanthropically constituted that they cannot but expect to benefit in some nontrivial, perhaps psychic, way from their efforts. Yet if this benefit is incidental to the decision to volunteer, the behavior is truly altruistic. My broad definition of true altruism does not take for granted that altruistic acts are rational. Rather, for an altruistic act to be “rational,” the altruists must choose a means-end set such that they reasonably expect their willful and altruistic purposes to be furthered without violating their values. Put differently, rational action need not be considered optimally efficient ex ante (as in economics), it need only be considered effective, which I take to include varying degrees of effectiveness. Abandoning the efficiency criterion in favor of an effectiveness criterion is not incidental to preserving the altruist’s rationality; I devote much of this paper to making the case for this change in standard. In distinguishing between effectiveness and efficiency, Drucker (1967) describes efficiency as “the ability to do things right rather than the ability to get the right things done” (p. 2). This distinction is particularly relevant to volunteer organizations, which undertake to do “the right things” precisely because profit-seeking firms would otherwise leave these things undone. Effectiveness does not replace the optimality that technical efficiency entails, however. But discerning effectiveness requires both measuring accurately and choosing the right criterion to measure. Indeed, there may be a meaningful sense in which optimality remains an aspect of rational action, but the means chosen need not be optimal relative only to the end it furthers. The sense in which a choice of means is optimal may depend on criteria apart from the mean’s suitability to its end. “Whenever one analyzes the way a truly effective, a truly right, decision has been reached, one finds that a great deal of work and thought went into finding the appropriate measurement” (Drucker, 1967, p. 145). This paper suggests that the appropriate measurement of the volunteer’s behavior encompasses more than means-end efficiency. After a brief discussion of economic rationality, I will consider five aspects of the volunteer’s folly that traditional economic analysis ignores. First, nonconsequentialist reasons may cause the altruist rationally to donate time rather than money. Second, constitutive choices force prudent altruists to consider the developmental path dependencies that alternative means to their end will produce. Third, pricelessness, a characteristic of personal acts of altruism, implies nonncommensurability with monetary donations, and poses a difficulty for efficiency analysis. This third element is relevant to both consequentialist and nonconsequentialist interpretations of the volunteer’s action. Fourth, nonrational motivation is inconsistent with the utility-maximizing theory of motivation implied by economic rationality. I contend that rational house-building may be motivated in a nonrational way by a desire to volunteer. An altruist may simply be motivated to volunteer time but not money in his or her desire to help another. Fifth, community preference production requires volunteers to generate a demonstration effect not achievable by monetary donation. This paper will, I hope, suggest extensions of economic rationality that support the notion that a true altruist may rationally decide to contribute time rather than money.

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

To quote Simon (1993), “In several areas of economics, current doctrines will have to undergo severe revision as motives other than economic gain (and especially altruistic ones) assume their appropriate place in theory” (p. 159). The rational fools of mainstream economics would not commit the volunteer’s folly, but rational people do. In this paper I have attempted to show that the “volunteer’s folly” is really no such thing, and that economic rationality, too narrowly defined, has failed to explain the altruist’s choice to volunteer time and effort rather than money. As much as economists would like to purge all normative considerations from their conception of rationality, this exercise merely empties the term “rationality” of its essential meaning. If economics is to be compatible with altruism in general, economists must postulate normative, objective values. Yet this change in premise is not by itself sufficient to explain the choice to donate time and effort rather than money. A new “socio-economic rationality” would recognize nonconsequentialist reasons, constitutive choices, pricelessness, nonrational motivation, and community preference production. Although some of the modifications these elements entail could conceivably be built into the existing analytic framework of neoclassical theory, others—the Humean account of motivation as distinct from goals, for example—are less easily assimilated. Two analytic constructs, in particular, are useful to socialize economic man. First, meta-preferences explain counter-preferential choice and facilitate an evolutionary, path-dependent theory of preference formation. In this dynamic context, meta-preferences rationalize altruistic volunteering on the basis of who one is to become. Second, by contrast, concepts of self rationalize altruistic volunteering on the basis of who one already is. Well-defined concepts of self are thus more akin to constraints than they are too higher-order preferences. These two constructs offer alternative ways to conceptualize the elements of a socio-economic rationality I have discussed. With regard to the rationality of altruistic volunteering, it is noteworthy that both the notion of pricelessness and of community preference production involve something like a meta-preference for participating in the development of community. Other more radical conclusions may be drawn from this discussion. One is that rationality is not properly an economic concept at all. Attempts to reconcile economic “rationality” with the value-laden, common-sense (and philosophical) meaning of the term may be akin to reconciling American and European “football” by rewriting the rule books—hardly a fruitful exercise. One might argue, then, that economic rationality may harmlessly coexist with alternative definitions, with the understanding that rationality in economics is limited to little more than technical efficiency in the production of goods, services, and utility. But unlike football, “rationality” hits with evaluative, not just descriptive, impact. For this reason, incentives exist to promote confusion to bestow upon one definition of rationality, the qualities of the other.

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