A Theory of Moral Persistence:
Crypto-Morality and Political Legitimacy
Why, how, and under what conditions do moral beliefs persist despite institutional pressure
for change? Why do the powerful often fail to promote the morality of their authority?
This paper addresses these questions by presenting the role of crypto-morality in moral persistence.
Crypto-morality is the secret adherence to one morality while practicing another in
public. A simple overlapping generations model is developed to examine the conditions under
which crypto-morality is practiced, decays and influences the direction of moral change. We
demonstrate the empirical relevance of crypto-morality by discussing the moral foundations
of political legitimacy in various historical episodes.
JEL classifications D02, D10, D82, N30, N40, P16