We present the results of a randomized control trial on the effect of the introduction of formalized property rights on individuals’ moral judgments and, in particular, on utilitarian morality. We show that institutions shape morality: being exposed to private property institutions makes individuals more utilitarian when confronted with moral dilemmas. Our results shed light on a possible institutional determinant of the variation of moral judgments across the globe and its geographical patterns, and have implications for the consequences of major institutional reforms – both intended, such as land-titling programs, and unintended, such as those following from recent historical events – on moral attitudes. We discuss two possible channels stemming from the inherent features of property rights: the loosening of social ties and the commodification of rights.
Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe and Fabbri, Marco, How Institutions Shape Morality (March 29, 2021). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No 2021-09, Amsterdam Center for Law and Economics Working Paper No 2021-05.