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“We don’t do God,” Tony Blair’s press secretary, Alistair Campbell, once famously remarked. They are a breed concerned with economic efficiency not spiritual uplift; human choices and incentives, not human values.
They argue for the responsibility of governments to provide public goods like education.
A good example of such a narrative in the British context might be popular opposition to the admittance of Syrian child refugees on the false belief, pushed hard by the right-wing media, that they are all really adults pretending to be children.
“Economics is fundamentally a moral and philosophical science, embedded in the larger social sciences,” Mr Tirole said, urging other economists in the audience to join in the project of trying radical new approaches.
But its executives could, in theory, choose not to do so. The Hart model raises the possibility that the incentives in the system of stock-market listed companies – the psychology of shareholders and the pressures on managements – might be behind an “amoral drift” in corporate behaviour.
In a similar vein, Jean Tirole, who won the Nobel in 2014, outlined at Lindau a theoretical framework in which he, along with Armin Falk, tries to model behaviour taking into account how certain popular “narratives” can inhibit people from doing what they would normally consider the right thing.