Support for Redistribution is Shaped by Compassion, Envy and Self Interest not Fairness

Hayek argued that support for redistribution was driven by emotions that had been optimally evolved for small, hunter-gatherer societies but that were now at tension with the rules necessary to create an extended social order such as under capitalism.

Support for Hayek’s hypothesis is given in a new paper by Sznycer et al. (et al. including Cosmides and Tooby). The authors use surveys to measure an individual’s disposition to compassion and envy. For example, for compassion there are 11 items such as “I suffer from others sorrows,” or (negative) “I tend to dislike soft-hearted people,” and for envy there are questions like “It is so frustrating to see some people succeed so easily”. In each case there is a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The authors also ask whether the respondents think a tax on the wealthy would benefit them (measured on a 1 to 5 scale).

What makes these three items–compassion, envy and self-interest– interesting is that each of these can be understood as having evolved for functional reasons in the ancestral environment (see the paper for cites and arguments.)

In contrast, “fairness” is a much more abstract and difficult to define concept and because it is based on groups rather than on interpersonal relations it is not clear how it would have evolved in the ancestral environment. The authors measure the demand for distributional fairness by asking a variety of questions about hypothetical distributions and they use survey questions such as “the law of the land should apply to everyone in the same way” to measure support for procedural fairness.

The main things to be explained are support for redistribution (again measured via a questionnaire) and private giving to charity. The authors have just over six thousand participants over four countries (the U.S., India, the UK and Israel).

A key finding:

Compassion, envy, and self-interest independently predict support for redistribution in four countries with different economic histories and distributional policies. This is consistent with an evolutionary-psychological approach…the effects of fairness as a group-wide concern is unreliable and of far smaller magnitude than the effect of the emotion/motivational triplet.

A scary/sad finding:

Respondents were given two scenarios, a 10% tax on the rich that led to X dollars for the poor or a 50% tax on the rich that because it reduced incentives led to X/2 dollars for the poor. This experiment was run in America, India and the UK.

Fourteen percent to 18% of the…participants indicated a preference for the scenario featuring a higher tax rate for the rich even though it produced less money for the poor.

It’s easy to be skeptical of survey answers (I prefer measured actions) but answers on questions like this have been shown to be predictive for a variety of behaviors and there is an internal logic among the answers that suggests real motivations and behaviors are being measured. Most notably, compassion and envy both predict support for redistribution but only compassion predicts private giving to charity.

Addendum: It is a scandal that so few of Hayek’s works are available online. I believe this is a serious detriment to Hayek research.


Stay outraged. That is you.

"Everyone loves the Democrats and their can-do message of opposition to Trump, entitlement to our money, resistance to Trump, demands for even more of our money, and dog-whistlin’ about murdering Trump and anyone else who doesn’t hate Trump or want to give Democrats our money.” Kurt Shlichter

Unless you actually work for the government, your support for higher broad-based taxes is rooted in either (1) your desire to punish the successful (2) your unrelenting need to virtue-signal compassion (3) your dogged refusal to care whether your preferred policies produce the intended results.

Yes, you, reader. I'm talking about you.

May you someday have children that need government services; may you someday wish the road were repaired; may you someday end up destitute from illness in an old folks home--so that you could look back on your words.

Having grown up before government services provided anything for our kids I suspect that you don't really "need" them but rather "want" those "free" services.

Don't conflate roads being repaired with redistribution. Everyone would agree some tax or other form of revenue is necessary to perform essential government services. But government is a hungry devious beast and a great example of this is California recently increasing the tax on gasoline to fix the crumbling highway infrastructure. Not even a nod or mention to the fact that the existing gas tax revenues had been hijacked to pay for projects that have nothing to do with highways and for rewards to donors to politicians. I assume some of this new gas tax will also be siphoned off for pet projects and graft as soon as the public is distracted by other issues.

There is no moral justification for using the power of the government to take by force if necessary the wealth and income of citizens to then just give it to others who did nothing at all to earn it. No matter how many tear jerker stories you cite what you really want is armed theft and immoral.

You were born before 1639?

I think perhaps he meant before such things as, government pouring out the breakfast cereal for your kids, who arrive at school an hour earlier than the actual start.

Do I want kids to be hungry in the morning at school? Well, yeah, maybe a little bit, if it fosters in their parents the lost art of procuring and pouring the breakfast cereal.

Born before 1935 then?

There are arguments that "government has gone too far" but when we are talking about things that have worked more or less, in dozens of countries, for close to a century, I think the burden of proof is on the claimant.

I see post-depression politics as largely successful, in all of the "market economies" that created "safety nets.".

Wow, you grew up before government schools??

Yeah, those safety nets do seem to have worked well in places where people were in little danger of needing them.
Or where there aren't many people at all.

The burden of proof is on you peri, name the country that prospered without safety nets, or where there was "little danger of needing them."

Because I expect that, as is often the case with libertarian fetishists, your "counterfactual" is actually a private fantasy.

Safety nets are luxuries that only countries grown rich through capitalism can afford.

Or having lots of oil in the ground, which is viable as long as the oil lasts.

"There is no moral justification for using the power of the government to take by force if necessary the wealth and income of citizens to then just give it to others who did nothing at all to earn it."

Only if you believe that the amount of wealth people create is exactly equal to the amount of money they earn. Most people don't belive that.

"No matter how many tear jerker stories you cite what you really want is armed theft and immoral."

Cry me a river.

"give it to others who did nothing at all to earn it. "

How do babies earn their keep? Do you sell your children so they earn their keep?

Was Baby Charlie earning his keep as a political tool against Obamacare that requires paying medical bills for safe and effective treatment without caps for insured US born defective gene babies?

'Or having lots of oil in the ground, which is viable as long as the oil lasts.'

Well, the Norwegians are planning for the future a bit better than that - 'The Norwegian state pension fund may sound an unlikely source of inspiration, but as one of the highest profile investors on the planet, its day-to-day management has lessons for the average investor.

Often referred to as "the oil fund", it is the world's largest individual wealth fund, containing more than £700bn in assets - equivalent to more than £130,000 for every man, woman and child in Norway.

From 1998 to 2015 it achieved an annualised return of 5.6pc - a figure many investors would take in a heartbeat.

Unlike the UK, which was cutting taxes at the height of its North Sea oil income, Norway squirrelled away its billions in order to ensure its temporary oil wealth would benefit generations to come.

The fund invests in more than 9,000 companies, and owns more than 1pc of the entire global equity market. Converted to cash, the fund would have enough funds to buy Apple, the world's largest company, as well as the giants BP and GlaxoSmithKline.'

The Norwegians are proof that 1% of the world's equity market ownership distributed among 5 million people is a most comfortable way to enjoy raking off the benefits of other people's work.

"burden of proof, &etc. ..."

It's people that the safety net is supposed to save, yes? Where save = more people, don't save = fewer, as with whales? Well, there's any number of countries, then, with ever-greater populations of the thing you're wanting to save ... without Scandinavian levels of spending on their social safety nets.

I think the relevant counterfactual is - what does Denmark look like without a social safety net? A hellhole?

The condescension on this thread is amazing. You don't like State violence? "Cry me a river". You think welfare is not what makes a country prosper? The burden of proof is on you to prove that it would work without. And that little gem that "money is not all the wealth created" as the man comes with a rifle for your... money.


May your ewes contract syphilis.

My know-nothing sister-in-law told me if it weren't for ACA, my brother would be dead because ACA forced an insurance company to pay from a second round of hugely expensive medicines. I recently learned not to reply to squawking macaws. If it did, I'd have told her that she and John had enough money for a two-week vacation in in Italy that year; and that placing a mortgage on one of their multi-million dollar properties would have covered the meds.

You take all the money (actually equity securities) from the hated 1% and it won't help one child.

Roads are repaired: paid for with gasoline taxes, er, the pittances not diverted to something else. Where I live bridge tolls are diverted to pay for buses and subways.

If you live long enough to need to go into a nursing home and you have (not "protected") financial assets, your heirs immediately become destitute after the government forces you to sign over to itself your assets. While the destitute for life get in there with you and never in their lives paid one penny in taxes. My definition of fairness (treat all persons fairly and equally) diverges from your definition.

There are also arguments along ordoliberal intuition. Humans are these self-serving, avaricious creatures who can be tempted by permanent wealth tranfers, even at the expense of the total pie, and future humans. Some degree of wealth transfers might be akin to setting small fires to avoid large ones.

Unless you actually work for the government, your support for higher broad-based taxes is rooted in either (1) your desire to punish the successful (2) your unrelenting need to virtue-signal compassion (3) your dogged refusal to care whether your preferred policies produce the intended results.

I'm not sure what you're getting by talking about "broad-based" taxes, but support for higher taxes could motivated by other things, such as concern about the national debt.

>>>>>>>> "...concern about the national debt"

?? name anybody of prominence in past 40 years who advocated higher-taxes primarily to reduce the national debt. nobody in government or politics seriously cares about it

"Redistribution" is all about stealing "Other People's Money" for uses 'you' favor.

Everybody favors low taxes for themselves, even strong redistributionists.
(Americans are totally free to pay much more taxes than legally required -- the US Treasury will gladly accept your generous donations ... but almost nobody does it (especially higher-tax-advocates like Warren Buffet)

anybody of prominence in past 40 years who advocated higher-taxes primarily to reduce the national debt

The Other Jim made a comment about people in general, not just prominent people. There must have been some prominent people who opposed the big tax cuts pushed through by GW Bush due to concern about deficits.

This doesn't make any sense. You are comparing apples and oranges. Voluntarily giving the government money is not a tax. It is a donation. Taxes are a mechanism that forces *everyone* to commit to sustain some private good. I'm not sure what you consider "low" but Warren Buffet himself has said he'd prefer to be taxed more so you're claim of "Everybody favors low taxes for themselves" is easily invalidated, unless of course you define low in some nonsensical way

kevin, Buffet was being sued by the IRS for not paying the taxes he owed at the time he made that statement. Maybe you shouldn't believe everything you hear.

I have never tried to avoid taxes or lower my tax burden. I truly don't care what portion of my income goes to the government.

I favor lower taxes for people less fortunate than me because I'd prefer to keep the pitchforks at bay.

Okay, accept that everyone is selfishness, that there is no middle ground between SJW virtue signaling and only caring about oneself. As an upper middle class, non millionaire American and a completely selfish person, why should I care if the government takes money from millionaires and gives it to working class Americans? I feel close to neither group but personally like the former a lot less, the bunch of hypocrites.

Talk about liberty or rights? That's just virtue signaling, man, I don't care about it.

The Other Jim --- Have you read & thought about the statement you just made?? It is total BS ---
The only 'Fair' way to tax is a flat rate tax with an exemption on lower income. That tax should be a percentage of every dollar that comes in with the only deductions allowed being the actual cost of producing that income. No 'Tax Schedules' or any of the other BS now in the system. All subsidies to established, profitable corporations should be immediately halted. all 'Foreign Aid' should be immediately halted & only one-time 'Aids' for humanitarian reasons considered, and all 'Tax Shelters' & 'OverSeas Accounts' should be immediately abolished. OF COURSE, I'm not foolish enough to hold any hope of that ever happening.

There is that rule, that a trolling first comment can ruin the whole page.


I'm just shocked and pleased that less than 20% were in favour of sticking it to The Man good and hard even thought the effects of this would be detrimental to the poor.

I'm afraid many more in my faculty are ardent Corbynistas who don't quite want to go full Venezuela but...

Maybe 10% and the other 10% not understanding the question.

Maybe 0% and 20% accidentally picking the opposite answer of the one they thought they were picking!

I believe there is an amusing collection called "14 percent of Americans will believe anything" or some such, that collects UFO polls, etc. I can't find it now, but it does show why we should put some kind of bottom limit on what polls tell us.

AlexT, as is his wont, as is TC's too occasionally, is trolling us trolls who troll here.

"Fourteen percent to 18% of the…participants indicated a preference for the scenario featuring a higher tax rate for the rich even though it produced less money for the poor." - that means 100-14 = 86% and 82% of the participants did NOT favor higher taxes to 'soak the rich at the expense of the poor'. So the vast majority of people do NOT favor these envious schemes, which seems to CONTRADICT the Hayek conclusions. Not that I intend to read any of the original sources, it's a waste of my time. About as informative as the fake news clickbait like '10 things you are doing wrong every morning'.

Don't see what is scary or sad about that bit at the end. It's dangerous for people to be too rich. Concentrates power and influence too much, and ends up threatening the liberties of the lower classes.

Personally, I'd be fine with confiscating wealth and simply throwing it away, and I think the poor would see gains from that kind of action. I'd probably rank it below the other two options, though. But I'd still (depending on the amount of wealth) consider it a net positive.


I'd happily give up some income if it meant politicians were more interested in listening to me then lobbyists. So many quality of life improvements I can think of that I would happily forgo money for, that have been derailed by lobbyists.

There are lobbyists on both sides of every issue... Exxon has lobbyists, but so does the Sierra Club. Give your money to the lobbyists that are on your side.

["I’d happily give up some income if it meant politicians were more interested in listening to me then lobbyists."]

...doubt you'd really be happy about it --- but you can easily buy a politician's "interest", just like a registered lobbyist

For example, send your Congressman a $10K campaign donation (directly/indirectly) and he will gladly take your phone call to hear your viewpoint. $20K will get you a personal office visit.
(state & local politicians come cheaper)

Exactly, so if the difference between x and x/2 in the linked study is less than 10k then it's really not that scary/sad that individuals would choose to receive x/2 income instead of x

The influence of money on governance is dangerous. It works both ways: rich to poor, poor (voting for more of other people's money) to rich. The middle is (perceived to be) squeezed.

Truman, "You can't get rich in politics unless you're a crook." Still true. So in 2017, America is run by people that got rich in politics.

Trump begs to disagree.

I beg for nothing, loser.

Fake - it wasn't posted on twitter.

Seems like a shaky justification for good old fashioned resentment if you ask me. What's the danger level I as someone who is solidly middle class should begin to fear for my liberty? $1 billion? $10 billion? Why?

With a wealth distribution like modern-day USA, somewhere between the top 1% and the top 0.1% would be good targets, imo. Would not generally want to expand it beyond the top 1%, and even that might be taking it too far.

Where there's already a flatter wealth distribution, the justification becomes less compelling, and I'd be more hesitant. Don't know if I could give an exact cutoff point for at what kind of distribution I'd change my mind, since I'm playing this by ear, but I'd say there's a possibility I'd decline to push that button at certain times in post-WWII American history.

There are retired government workers in Chicago with pensions worth millions - they are okay, but a 35 year old married couple of doctors with negative net worth should worry for being in the 1% of income.

You're using logic. Doesn't work.

Just to be clear about your honesty: how much of your income (as well as your wealth) do you "throw away" each year? Money, mouth.

So you think it would be a net positive to take money that is invested in capital that increases the productivity of the working class, and set it on fire?

Ah, rationalizations of envy are always so pathetic... After all, reality has sooo many examples of your theory! Just look at Bill Gates and his pals, they are truly a real threat to the world...

I'd suggest a quick trip to Venezuela.

'It is a scandal that so few of Hayek’s works are available online.'

Well, that certainly sounds like self-interested complaining about unfair distribution.

[‘It is a scandal that so few of Hayek’s works are available online.]

.... then just what is stopping Alex from personally fixing that probem ??

seems a very minor effort to locate a friendly website to host the Hayek works, or even to start a new website for that purpose....

Isn't it copyrighted? Hayek lived long.

...copyright fees should be minimal, given the apparent low market-value of Hayek's extended works

also, the copyright holders (Hayek heirs?) may have a strong personal interest in promoting Hayek's work and reputation

Who knows? As someone said, if the Greeks had copyright and it would be allowed,to be renocpvated and sold, Homer's works today would be the property of some giant multinational company. Thanks to America's crazy laws, it may have happened to Hayek. It happened to Marx's texts in English. You cman not use them unless you pay moneyed interests.
It is a sad story of greed gone mad.

Support for capitalism is dominated by envy and self-interest, too, but we seem to like that just fine.

This is a misconception. Most libertarians don't support capitalism out of envy or self-interest, but because capitalism directs envy and self-interest towards the greater good.
No matter what you think, humans are humans and people are self-interested and often envious. A capitalist system with strong protections for individual rights and equal justice ensures that the envious and the self-interested have to compete with each other on the merits in a free market. If you envy your rich neighbor, you can't just take his money, you have to go into business and produce something that other people want more. And to the extent that the rich neighbor can use his money to influence the government to keep you from competing, that's something that libertarians are opposed to.

Most libertarians don’t support capitalism ...

That's an odd way to respond to Robert's statement. Most Americans probably haven't even heard of the term "libertarian", yet there is quite a bit of support for capitalism. Your remarks about why libertarian are probably not accurate. Most libertarians that you come across on the internet became "libertarian" after developing a hatred for the government, generally as teenagers or young adults. Some time later they read about the virtues of capitalism, often on the internet.

"Most libertarians that you come across on the internet became “libertarian” after developing a hatred for the government, generally as teenagers or young adults. Some time later they read about the virtues of capitalism, often on the internet."

That must be true. Because some guy on the internet claimed it was true.

On a more serious note, you are pretty much just stating your personal opinion as if it were objective fact.

I think a good deal of libertarians just hated their step dad and generalized outward from there.

You Hayekian segment and your hate the government love capitalism segments are relatively small.

"capitalism directs envy and self-interest towards the greater good"--except negative externalities


"Everyone knows!"

Self interest, yes. Envy? Not as far as rationalizing taking other people's money by force.

"t’s easy to be skeptical of survey answers" .... unless it supports my priors.

Americans react this way because they know that, in the end of the day, the American regime is actually controlled by a few moneyed interests and malefactors of great wealth. The system itself is corrupt to its core (i.e. Trump, Clinton, Iran Contras, Sununu, Banks bail-outs, Solyndra).

Well Brazilians are experts on corruption. So, no one should discount your opinion on those grounds.

No, we are not. Most Brazilians are scrupulously honest. Americans, however, think scruples are Russia's currwncy and morals are,paintingsmon the walls. You are ruled by a conman and Wall Street's bailed-out malefactors of great wealth. In Brazil, criminals are punished in strict and cruel ways, they are put under pressure until they confess and rat their partners. I haven't heard anything anymore about "locking her up". Unlike Trump, President Temer is honest and accomplished, a true leader of men.

"Unlike Trump, President Temer is honest and accomplished, a true leader of men."

Really? What about President Silva & President Rousseff? Were they also honest and accomplished?

There were mistakes, but they are being punished with all the mighty of the law: Rousseff, who has not been found guilty of corruption per si yet, has already been impeached for her outrageous mismanagement of the economy. Former president Lula, whose administration's outcomes were somewhat good (except for choosing Rousseff as his successor, volunteering Brazil to host the World Cup and the Olympic Games - we spent money we did not actually have to please ungrateful foreigners we don't like - and his corrupt dealings) has already been sentenced to almost ten years of jail time. Meanwhile, Americans elected a foreign asset who is also a notorious conman, and I have not heard anything anymore about "locking her up". I can not imagine Brazilians electing someone like Trump or allowing our government to become as corrupt and beholden to moneyed interests as the American one is. Yet, the American sheeple do not care.

"There were mistakes, ...."

Yes, there indeed mistakes. One can only imagine the amount of mistakes that must have been made to end up with the last two Brazilian Presidents in prison.

You lie, boy!! Only one former president has been sentenced to prison. Rousseff (as all Brazilian living former presidents!) still is under federal inveatigation because Brazilians believe in the rule of law and demand honesty from every person "no matter how exalted or protected his position might be" (Americans used to do likewise!), but also believe in justice, not revenge, and believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty. In Brazil, politicians do not sell presidential pardons, bail out their cronies or cheat suppliers and creditors. There are neither Trumps nor Clintons in Brazil.

"TR - Most Brazilians are scrupulously honest. "

"In March and April 2015 millions of protesters took to the streets during the 2015 protests in Brazil against Rousseff's alleged involvement in the Petrobras scandal which involved kickbacks and corruption. When allegations surfaced that graft occurred while President Rousseff was part of the board of directors of Petrobras, between 2003 and 2010, Brazilians became upset with the government and called for Rousseff's impeachment.
On 31 August 2016, the Senate, sitting as a judicial body, voted 61–20 in favor of impeachment, finding Rousseff guilty of breaking budget laws and removing her from office."

"In April 2015 the Public Ministry of Brazil opened an investigation into allegations of influence peddling by Lula -- that between 2011 and 2014 he lobbied for government contracts for the Odebrecht in foreign countries and also got BNDES to finance the projects, in Ghana, Angola, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
A police statement alleged that Lula collaborated in illegal bribes from Petrobras which benefited his political party and presidential campaign.
Lula was found guilty by the lower court of accepting R$3.7 million in bribes ($1.2 million US) in the form of improvements to his beachfront house from construction company Grupo OAS (pt), which in turn received lucrative contracts from the state-owned oil company Petrobras.[87] On 12 July, he received a sentence of nine and a half years in prison."

It seems that our definitions of "scrupulously honest" are quite a bit different.

"It seems that our definitions of 'scrupulously honest' are quite a bit different".

No, but apparently our definitons of "most Brazilians" are. I can assure you most Brazilians received no kickbacks whatsoever regarding Petrobras business and have no corrupt dealings with crooked construction companies (many of thosemcompanies owners' are jailed). Also, what really happened under Rousseff's administration is a matter for the ongoing federal investigation. She was impeached for mishandling the budget, i.e. spending more money than the law allowed her to, not for corruption. We are not America, we do not have lynching parties or witch trials. We will follow the rule of law. As for former president Lula, there are fed3ral investigations ongoing, but take notice: being the most popular politician in the country did not spare him from being setenced to jail time. Meanwhile, in America, corrupt politicians are not punished.

Seriously, you have to tone it down. This is ridiculous. You must live in Ohio after all.

Compare and contrast. Everyone knows "you can't convict a million dollars” in America (Trump, Clinton's lectures, other Clinton's presidential pardons, the Teapot Dome Scandal, Iran-Contras, etc.). In Brazil, the biggest bankers, politicians, construction companies' owners are behind bars, sometimes they are kept there for months or ers before they accept to waive their rights, admit their crimes and rat their partners. Brazil is going through the most throghout criminal investigation since the Soviet Yezhovina. Corruption is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover, but it won't be able to run for cover forever. Corruption is an enemy that tries to hide, but it won't be able to hide forever.
This is an enemy that thinks its harbours are safe, but they won't be safe forever.

* months of years

* months or years

But yes, I live in Ohio.

You may live there, but I don't.

Yes we do live there.

It is a lie. I am a proud Brazilian going back many generations.

Stop impersonating me, it is nopt funny.

This is out of the mainstream on the literature and research. If you want to do some work on your own, look up the behavioral economics research on fairness, which often guides how companies market products (ever play the Dictator game in successive rounds to find that you get Whopped if you were unfair in later rounds, or if you have a customer who discovers you have treated him unfairly); in addition to BE research, you might also look at the works of the economist John List at the University of Chicago.

Not surprising for anyone who has read Nietzsche and his philosophy of ressentiment.
Rousseau or Robespierre are the kind of people

driven by ressentiment. Lenine too.

An, er, Straussian would wonder if Alex Tabarrok has been placed on MR staff as a deep cover leftist agent to disrupt Tyler's sly-innocent, just-asking-questions routine by being a hilariously obvious ideologue.

Except for the fact T-Bar does his most damage to social leftism. His economic arguments are silly and boring but his arguments for social leftism come lathered in spittle and crocodile tears.

Immigration is a coercive redistribution system. It's not individual redistribution but group based redistribution. Hayek also opposed open border style immigration, from what I can read.

Open border with welfare yes. But "redistribution" through competition is not redistribution at all. If someone charges less to do what you do, you need to either get new skills or lower your price. Nothing unfair about that.

Natives must get priority.

From a mostly free labor market, absolutely, it's competition, it's fully merited, not coerced redistribution at all. With almost all free market exchanges where both buyer/seller are willing, both buyer/seller benefit, they are positive sum transactions, and happy stories.

From a welfare and social services perspective, it's redistribution, and it is sometimes reverse redistribution with wealthy immigrants, who pay more than they consume.

With voting rights, it's mostly zero sum gain/loss. And with contest over over shared political resources, like cushy government jobs, it's mostly zero sum as well.

Are market participants motivated by economic fundamentals or by beliefs? Does it depend on whether the market participant is rich or not rich, with the rich motivated by economic fundamentals and the not rich motivated by belief? Would the rich support a 10% tax on high levels of income if the tax would reduce the systemic risk of financial and economic instability? Would the rich support the tax out of concern for economic fundamentals (financial and economic instability correlates with high levels of inequality)? Or would the rich oppose the tax out of greed? Would the rich support equal tax treatment of wages and capital income out of fairness? Or would the rich oppose equal tax treatment of wages and capital income out of greed (the rich earn most of the capital income)? Would the rich support the elimination of tax loopholes only enjoyed by the rich (such as the ability to shelter (hide) income in tax havens) out of fairness? Or would the rich oppose the elimination of tax loopholes out of greed (since only the rich can take advantage of the loopholes)? If people are motivated by belief, and are likely to believe just about anything, what do economic fundamentals have to do with it.

Stated preferences = useless

They're psychologists. That's kind of the premise of what they do. (You do wonder if there are as many nails around as the hammer-wielders fancy).

Here is good old Alex ready to judge people as usual. Tell me Alex, does your tongue get tired from all that clucking?

The title shoud not be "Support for Redistribution is Shaped by Compassion, Envy and Self Interest not Fairness"?

Ackk! My bad. Fixed.

Wonder how "compassion" slipped its way out of that headline.

Found its way in!

Take pity on Prof. Tabarrok - it is hard for some people to remember that compassion is important in human affairs.

Generally, compassion is easily dismissed by such people as Prof. Tabarrok as virtue signalling - after all, that is undoubtedly the point of the parable of the good Samaritan.

'Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?"

He said, "He who showed mercy on him."

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." — Luke 10:30–37, World English Bible'

Clearly a case of egregious virtue signalling on the part of the Samaritan.

Ah, Thatcher, a woman so famous for her compassion that many people celebrated her death by buying 'Ding-dong The Witch Is Dead.'

'The Official Charts Company said Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead was "one of the most controversial chart contenders of all time" following the death of Lady Thatcher last week.

On Friday Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper said in his BBC blog he had decided Sunday's Official Chart Show would not play the 51-second song in full.

He said the decision had been a "difficult compromise", saying he had to balance respect for someone who had just died with issues around freedom of speech.

Instead, host Jameela Jamil linked to a Newsbeat reporter who explained why the song was in the chart.

Two short clips of the song were played as Sinead Garvan gave details of the online campaign and explained why opponents had been critical of Lady Thatcher.

The news report - which ran for almost 40 seconds longer than the song itself - also included two views from members of the public on the controversy, with one saying it was "quite funny", while the other said it was "disgraceful".'

There are different kinds of people. It is good that there are different kinds of people. Messy though, and a lot of people don't seem to think it's good that there are different kinds of people. C'est la vie.

No. As a Brazilian song says, "Se todos fossem
Iguais a você
Que maravilha viver" ("If all people were like you, how wonderful life would be").

No, As the French say: "vive la difference!"

Hey, I'm sure the song lyrics (Thiago) were meant to be in jest.
Presumably heterosexuals have an instictive desire for diversity among humans ;-)

This is ridiculous. People seek people like them, people who share their values, their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations, their fears, their worries, their interests. As we say in Brazil, "em negócios e coisas que tais, junte-se a seus iguais", "in business and other such affairs, join forces with like-minded people".

No, as we Brazilians say, "Now the rosey glow of dawn
greets brothers, and not hostile tyrants.
WE ARE ALL EQUAL! In the future, united,
We will know how to take up
Our august banner that, pure,
glows triumphant from the altar of the fatherland!"

You commies may all be equal, but I'm a lot richer than you.

Because Beazil created you you should pay a fair share of your earnings!

Because Brazil created you you should pay a fair share of your earnings!

“It is so frustrating to see some people succeed so easily”.
The does not measure or indicate envy. As well grounded in meritocractic beliefs, discomfort with luck, etc.

Wonder if the results would've been different with a more believable assumed Laffer curve.

A political study can try to shed light on political outcomes , but it can't negate those outcomes. This is one study. It asks a few questions of a few thousand people in a few countries. Compare that to generations of decisions by millions of people in a hundred countries. Those represent the human consensus.

In the real world, all countries collect tax. That's a universal. It is also a universal that charities operate. Rules of fairness are defined and enforced in courts, again as a universal.

The disagreements we see within and across countries are about how these universal ideas should be proportioned. Often these disagreements are very small, but inflated to be very large. You know the old joke. A 35% top marginal tax rate is capitalism is fair, but a 38% top tax is socialism, and an immoral taking of "my money"

It is quite possible that there are different kinds of people in and across countries. Genetic biases for compassion or envy may come into play. But to digest that you have to give up the notion that civilization is always on a brink, that incremental change in the wrong direction is disaster. Or that any change represents a slippery slope to your idea of disaster.

In other words, grow up.

When it comes to tax progressivity, America is pretty grown-up, thank you.

America in which sense? Sure our political outcomes are moderate, but the political climate is another thing entirely.

The Obama presidency, from ‘socialist’ to ‘dictator’

I mean America in the non-lunatic sense.

You are Olympic-caliber at non-sequiturs.

I think you misread my paragraphs, and then blame me when I don't want to change subjects.

"It is quite possible that there are different kinds of people in and across countries. Genetic biases for compassion or envy may come into play. But to digest that you have to give up the notion that civilization is always on a brink, that incremental change in the wrong direction is disaster. Or that any change represents a slippery slope to your idea of disaster"

I mean, think back to the whole ACA story arc. Was it an example of "non-lunatic" politics in America? From "death panels" to "socialism destroying America" and only at this very late date considered as beneficial to a wide swath of voters. Those voters who hold angry town-halls wanting to keep their insurance were the same ones swept along by the emotional wedge politics of death panels and socialism destroying America.

How do you know they are the same ones? Just a private fantasy?

Supported by polling. Most significant was that while most hated Obamacare, they could not tell you what it was. Other than socialism, of course.

"Those represent the human consensus."

Astounding ignorance. They reflect the current outcome of power struggles, no more and no less.

lol right. The amazing correlation across G12 countries (etc) is just because amoral power struggles worked out the same way.

> “fairness” is a much more abstract and difficult to define concept and because it is based on groups rather than on interpersonal relations it is not clear how it would have evolved in the ancestral environment.

Really? Is the monkey envious of the other, or does it feel it is being treated unfairly? Maybe this experiment cannot distinguish, though the researcher claims it is measuring fairness. But claiming that fairness could not have evolved in the "ancestral" environment seems a stretch.

I had a similar reaction when reading this sentence. In fact, the same capuchin monkey experiment came to mind, as well as the observation that the concept of "fairness" arises rather early and organically in children. It seems more likely to me that "fairness" or "social inequity aversion" IS in fact a basic ancestral algorithm enabling social creatures to quickly calculate if they should be "satisfied" or whether it would be prudent to risk addition expenditure of energy / possible retaliation / etc. to seek more.

The ability to form a countering rational idea that checks this basic social inequity aversion and allows one to be satisfied with an unequal result that still represents an improved position seems to be the more complex, higher level capacity.

I'm still trying to understand how it is "fair" to charge me a different price for police protection than the rich guy down the street (and the poor gal in that apartment across town). Same with fire, same with military protection. Of course, I'm pretty dumb. Funny story: it took me quite a while to realize that "flat tax" did NOT mean that everyone would contribute equally. I really don't understand why the vast majority of Americans think that proportional taxation for (arguably) the exact same services is "fair". Why does what I earn (especially in a free market economy) have ANY bearing on what I pay for government? Seems to me that if the whiners don't want the rich to "unduly" influence government policy, that they should be advocating fix fee taxation (or whatever you call it).

'Why does what I earn (especially in a free market economy) have ANY bearing on what I pay for government? '

You are aware, at a local level in most of the U.S., that both the sales tax and the property tax are not directly connected to earnings, right?

And that in the case of the local fire department, very often it is a volunteer organization, and to the extent that it uses local government revenue, it comes from property taxes, right?

Obviously, there is a lot of complexity, but in no way do all government services in the U.S. rely on taxes based on earnings.

Li Zhi has a cute argument, and that tax relies on wealth and earnings does not really undermine it. Truly, if you can't afford your yearly poll tax you should be put in the work house. It is either that, or progressive taxes are good after all.

I agree, but I also understand how in practice collecting more taxes from the rich is a necessity given our political culture. What really bugs me is that the left doesn't even recognize that the rich are, in practical terms, helping the poor just by paying taxes. It is always the opposite (i.e., the rich are somehow killing the poor for not paying enough taxes!). It is a circular argument that is very destructive, in my opinion.

If you attribute any portion of a person's earnings to the fact that living in a civilization contributes to the ability to make an earning (The ease of navigation roads provide, the security a police force provides, etc.) then the wealthy inherently profit more from the existence of government services. While they may not personally use those services to a larger degree than others, they still have a higher potential loss if those services went away. If a bridge collapses, a lower class employee can't cross the river to make $8 an hour, however the owner of the factory on the other side loses thousands of dollars or more per hour due to his shut-down. Should those two equally split the cost of that bridge repair? If you looked at government services as a supply / demand curve would those two be willing or able to pay the same for the bridge repair? It's more valuable to the wealthy man and he should therefore pay more.

It's only when people falsely attribute wealth creation to individual effort that they start to question taxation. Wealth creation may take individual initiative, but it's built on the stability that government services provide. If you want to try and profit in a world without roads, security services, sewers, water distribution etc. then move to an undeveloped country and do your best.

I would argue that rich-envy/poor-compassion by many in the middle- to lower-middle class is no different than colleague-conquer and lower-class contempt being felt by many in the upper-class. They are emotions that minimally defeat network-effect cooperation and moderately-enhance competitive individual-strive. They are better than fairness as a means to increase overall wealth and opportunity, but far below the ideal of creating a videogame economy where all wages are set, but opportunities to exploit/strive/slack within that structure are infinite - the ultimate meritocratic system - it just requires AI to dynamically nudge the supply/demand dynamics.

For those of you reading this far... this is a single study. In the sciences, we generally start to "believe" things after a fair amount of replication. I believe this is doubly important in the social sciences.

I don't know the literature on this topic at all, but I don't see indications that this is strongly supported by other work.

So when the story becomes "a significant body of work encompassing a range of methodologies strongly points toward X", then I start really paying attention. Even a single large, well done, comprehensive study can end up looking quite wrong over time - and this has been pointed out in posts in this blog several times.

Yeah, except when a study strokes someone's biases. Then it is SCIENCE!!!!!.

Add to the fact that we know most social scientific literature is bogus to the core because of lack of replication and publication bias. Fifty years of "stereotype threat", and in the end, it was all a fake.

Those are valid points, but still you are making an Argument from Ignorance.

To be fair, if you just mean, take this single study with a grain of salt, then I agree with you. But if you are saying that it's wrong, because there aren't other studies that prove it true, then I disagree with your statement.

Did they really need nine faculty members to conduct this study?

It is one faculty member fewer than what they need to exchnge a lightbulb.

Didn't Jesus say that there is no greater love than the willingness to fleece your neighbor to hel another?

Well, He actually paid His taxes, although nor everyone can take money from a fish.

No Jesus said Justice is the last pope being hung with the entrails of the last king of something like that.

T-Bar hates religion especially Christianity so you aren't even really scoring any points.

I thought He said something about Catholics being unreliable and red. Oh, no, it was Ann Coulter.

I prefer redistribution to disruptive philanthropy that circumvents democracy and diminishes the voice of the people.

Objection to redistribution is shaped by selfishness and greed. No survey required.

I think St. Basil puts it well.

"Who is the covetous man? One for whom plenty is not enough. Who is the defrauder? One who takes away what belongs to everyone. And are not you covetous, are you not a defrauder, when you keep for private use what you were given for distribution? When some one strips a man of his clothes we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not—should not he be given the same name? The bread in your hoard belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. All you might help and do not—to all these you are doing wrong."

- Basil of Caesarea, sermon on the rich fool

It may not be shaped out of fairness, but that was the excuse Obama gave for agreeing with this point of view. It takes a certain kind of scumbag to be willing to give up money in order to see someone else do worse.

Wait a minute. 14 - 18 % chose the punitive / envious option, and that's what we're talking about? That's what's scary?

There were only two options, so 82 - 86% chose the non-punitive / effective option. That's an incredibly encouraging result, pointing at exactly the opposite conclusion from the 'scary' one.

Jeebus, people! Trump has an approval rating of 33%! If you conduct a poll, even a well-designed one, some people are going to go to the extreme. 80+ % for effectiveness means we should do this right now!

This article is either a joke or a test.

I just love how there are those that pretend, and probably have convinced themselves, that all the wealthy actually earned their good fortune.

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