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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Delegating to a Powerless Intermediary: Does It Reduce Punishment?


Beyond the classical reasons of efficiency, commitment, the distribution of information, or incentive provision, a person may also delegate decision rights so as to avoid blame for an unpopular or immoral decision. We show that by delegating to an intermediary, a dictator facing an allocation decision can effectively shift moral responsibility onto the delegee even when doing so necessarily eliminates the possibility of a fair outcome. Dictators who choose selfishly via an intermediary are punished less and earn greater profits than those who directly choose a selfish outcome, while the intermediary is punished more.

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