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The Rational BelieverChoices and Decisions in the Madrasas of Pakistan$
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Masooda Bano

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450440

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450440.001.0001

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The Missing Free-Rider

The Missing Free-Rider

Religious Rewards and Collective Action

(p.157) 7 The Missing Free-Rider
The Rational Believer

Masooda Bano

Cornell University Press

This chapter investigates the ability of religion to check free-riding in the use of public goods. Madrasas and mosques produce public goods in the form of trained imams and the performance of religious rituals, which are utilized by believers. It is impossible to monitor the contribution of each individual believer in the production and maintenance of this public good, yet enough believers choose to make a contribution rather than free-ride. This presents a puzzle, for theory suggests that rational individuals should prefer to free-ride, especially when no religious injunction makes their contribution mandatory. Based on discussions with individuals who regularly donate to the mosque and madrasas whose services they utilize, the chapter develops a detailed theory of religious reward, and finds in this an answer to the quandary of the economically irrational behavior noted above—the willingness to donate, the conversion of competition into deference, and the transitive nature of religious beliefs. The chapter also draws on other studies to illustrate how the complexity of rewards is central to explaining not just religious behavior but also much altruistic and ideologically driven behavior.

Keywords:   madrasas, Islamic schools, free riding, public goods, religion, religious reward, religious behavior

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