Gifts as Governance

Church Welfare and the Samaritan's dilemma

Originally published in Journal of Institutional Economics

How do gifts relate to formal and informal institutions? Giving gifts, especially in the form of anti-poverty aid, opens the givers to a serious social dilemma: the Samaritan's dilemma. We explain how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses a mixture of formal and informal governance to provide sustainable social welfare programs that avoid this dilemma. These institutions not only govern aid arrangements, but also provide governance across the entire Church community, encouraging religious adherence and broad-based participation.

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