Why Economists Fear the Commandments

According to Dr. Avichai Snir Empirical evidence suggests that economists do not know the 10 commandments yet they behave like socially inclined sissies when reminded about them. Economists fear the commandments. Dr. Snir shows that this puzzle can be explained if we assume that economists are both rational and fear God despite not believing in his existence. We share his treatment of commandment 5 here.

Commandment 5: Honor thy father and thy mother.

Any economist who took at least a basic course in game theory can see that this sentence is simply not time consistent. It is clearly optimal for any child to promise that he will honor his parents when he wants an increase in his candy supply. Once he has grown up, however, it is just as optimal for him to renege from his promise because once the parents retire they cannot provide him with further M&Ms. By backwards induction, any parent should understand that the child’s promises are not credible and should therefore have no children. Instead of learning Commandment 5, therefore, the economist will do better if he spends his time on publishing papers that show why even Garry Becker made the irrational decision to spend time, effort and money on bringing up two girls and two stepsons (Becker and Tomes, 1976).

Economists fear the commandments, but they can be funny!

Economists drone on about “gross domestic this” and “game theory that”. But when they aren’t busy boring you (and each other), to death with their professional musings, they can actually crack a smile. And perhaps make you smile too. And yes, Economists fear the commandments. 🙂

If you like this you may enjoy other blog posts by Jeff Linroth


  1. Dale S says:

    This is well written, Jeff, and hilarious. I am still chuckling. Keep your good words coming, Jeff.

    • Jeff Linroth says:

      You gotta have a sense of humor if you’re going to be an economist! Even if you’re only an amateur. Thanks for reading.

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