Rational moralists: The role of fairness in democratic economic politics

  • Eichenberger R
  • Oberholzer-Gee F
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In this paper, we empirically test for the influence of fairness considerations on the willingness to redistribute income in private and in democratic decisions. In contrast to standard explanations of income redistribution, our theory takes into account that prices shift decisively as we move from the sphere of private contributions to politics. At the polls, it is nearly costless to observe social norms. Therefore,we expect individuals to behave more fairly in the political sphere than in the market place. We present experimental evidence which is consistent with this hypothesis. In distributive struggles, social norms moderate the inclination of human beings to behave like ‘gangsters’.

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  • Reiner Eichenberger

  • Felix Oberholzer-Gee

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