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image for OpenScout resource :: Respect

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Becker (1974) introduced to modern economics the idea that others care about what others think about them and derived many useful insights from this assumption. But he did not provide a very complete description of the general equilibrium of an economy in which people both demand respect from and supply respect to others. This paper analyzes the equilibrium price of respect, showing how it depends on the distribution of material endowments and discussing whether we would expect that, as society gets richer, the market for respect becomes more or less important. It explains why a demand for respect is a human universal in terms of Becker’s observation that this helps to provide insurance where markets are absent. Although the demand for respect is universal, the activities that command respect have enormous cultural diversity – the paper explains how there can be many Nash equilibria if respect is withheld from those who violate prescribed behaviour. Finally the paper discusses where, in a modern economy, respect is demanded and supplied arguing it is primarily bundled up with other goods and services because of the nature of the costs of supplying it.

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