Feriel Kandil: feriel.kandil[at]univ-amu.fr
Manohar Kumar: manohar.kumar[at]univ-amu.fr
Why do decision makers (DMs) tend to make their ancestors into gods, view their kings and flags sacred, and regard violations of certain norms as repugnant? To answer the question, this paper commences with an unlikely puzzle. The puzzle, to paraphrase Proust: “the best way to make goods sought after is to make them hard to find.” To solve the puzzle, this paper proposes a “bonding hypothesis”: While the usual utility is a positive function of the quantity consumed, another kind of utility (called “bonding utility”) is a negative function. The paper proposes another key idea: the cost of bonding with goods is ultimately incommensurable with the standard cost of such goods. These two ideas provide the necessary condition for the account of the sacred, while additional conditions are needed to provide the sufficient condition. Once we account for the sacred, it is possible to explain with ease the origin of identity whether personal, social, or political; to shed light on the endowment effect problem; to demonstrate exactly how repugnant acts (such as sale of kidneys, sex, children) differ from distasteful acts (such as the purchase of the same “goods”); and many other payoffs.