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Strong reciprocity and the welfare state

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  • Fong, Christina M.
  • Bowles, Samuel
  • Gintis, Herbert

Abstract

We explore the contribution of reciprocity and other non selfish motives to the political viability of the modern welfare state. In the advanced economies, a substantial fraction of total income is regularly transferred from the better off to the less well off, with the approval of the electorate. Economists have for the most part misunderstood this process due to their endorsement of an empirically implausible theory of selfish human motivation. Drawing on anthropological, experimental, public opinion survey and other data we develop an alternative behavioral explanation for economic reasoning about sharing and insurance. In this alternative view, reciprocity motives are necessary for understanding support for and opposition to the welfare state. Modern citizens willingly share with those who uphold societal norms about what constitutes morally worthy behavior, while frequently seeking to punish those who transgress those norms, even when these actions are individually costly and yield no individual material benefit.

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This chapter was published in:

  • S. Kolm & Jean Mercier Ythier (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 2, number 2, 00.
    This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism with number 2-23.

    Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:2-23

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/bookseriesdescription.cws_home/BS_HE/description

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    Cited by:
    1. Algan, Yann & Cahuc, Pierre & Sangnier, Marc, 2011. "Efficient and Inefficient Welfare States," CEPR Discussion Papers 8229, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Lind, Jo Thori, 2003. "Fractionalization and the size of government," Memorandum 21/2003, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    3. Margaretha Buurman & Robert Dur, 2012. "Incentives and the Sorting of Altruistic Agents into Street-Level Bureaucracies," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1318-1345, December.
    4. Fong, Christina M. & Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2009. "Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment," Working Paper Series rwp09-014, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & Marc Sangnier, 2014. "Trust and the Welfare State: The Twin Peaks Curve," AMSE Working Papers 1424, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised Jun 2014.
    6. Jorge Andrés Gallego, 2007. "La reciprocidad y la paradoja del votante," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 9(16), pages 149-188, January-J.
    7. Liebig, Stefan & Schupp, Jürgen, 2008. "Leistungs- oder Bedarfsgerechtigkeit? Über einen normativen Zielkonflikt des Wohlfahrtsstaats und seiner Bedeutung für die Bewertung des eigenen Erwerbseinkommens," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 7-30.
    8. Fong, Christina M. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2011. "Do fairness and race matter in generosity? Evidence from a nationally representative charity experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 372-394.
    9. Hahn, Volker & Mühe, Felix, 2009. "Committees and reciprocity," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 26-47, January.
    10. M. Fong, Christina & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 2011. "Truth in giving: Experimental evidence on the welfare effects of informed giving to the poor," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 436-444.
    11. Stefan Liebig & Carsten Sauer & Jürgen Schupp, 2010. "Die wahrgenommene Gerechtigkeit des eigenen Einkommens: geschlechtstypische Muster und die Bedeutung des Haushaltskontextes," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 309, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    12. Stichnoth, Holger & van der Straeten, Karine, 2009. "Ethnic diversity and attitudes towards redistribution: a review of the literature," ZEW Discussion Papers 09-036, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    13. Tammi, Timo, 2013. "Dictator game giving and norms of redistribution: Does giving in the dictator game parallel with the supporting of income redistribution in the field?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 44-48.

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