Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this book chapter or follow this series

Selfishness, altruism and normative principles in the economic analysis of social transfers

Contents:

Author Info

  • Blanchet, Didier
  • Fleurbaey, Marc

Abstract

This chapter examines the role of altruistic motives in the economic analysis of public social transfers, both from a positive and from a normative point of view. The positive question is to know whether we can fully neglect altruistic considerations to explain the development or sustainability of these transfers. Such is the implicit ambition of efficiency theories of the Welfare State. However, while these theories may be suited for explaining the development of public insurance or life-cycle transfers, they rapidly reach their limits when we try to explain more redistributive dimensions of social transfers. At the other extreme, descriptions of social transfers as systems of extended insurance (behind the veil of ignorance) implicitly do as if individuals were ready to completely abstract from their real world situations, and this can be analyzed as an extreme form of altruism. Actual motivations for support of social transfers certainly lay somewhere in between, i.e., a mix of well-understood selfishness and partial altruism. This explains why these systems can redistribute more than explained by pure efficiency motives, but less than what would be predicted under the extended insurance hypothesis. One additional limit to redistribution is the fact that even very altruistic agents can deliberately reduce its scope because of its potential disincentive effects. The second part of the chapter examines normative considerations which seem relevant to the evaluation of systems of social transfers. In particular, the idea of extended insurance has paradoxical implications in some circumstances, because of its structural similarity to utilitarianism. Therefore it appears useful to look for other normative theories, such as inequality-averse social welfare functions or fairness criteria. It is shown how both approaches can be useful in the study of second-best solutions under incentive constraints. The chapter ends with a critical examination of the incorporation of individuals' altruistic feelings in social welfare functions.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B7P5K-4KFT70D-H/2/b2691042e0fc8f5d1ddc5c033bf3e8ab
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Bibliographic Info

as in new window

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 2-24.

    Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:2-24

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/bookseriesdescription.cws_home/BS_HE/description

    Related research

    Keywords:

    Find related papers by JEL classification:

    References

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Ivo Bischoff & Thomas Krauskopf, 2013. "Motives of pro-social behavior in individual versus collective decisions – a comparative experimental study," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201319, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:2-24. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.