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The Behavioral Tradeoff between Efficiency and Equity when a Majority Rules

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  • Gary E. Bolton
  • Axel Ockenfels

Abstract

Voting is a natural context to investigate how democratic societies balance claims of economic efficiency against claims of distributive equity. We examine data from a series of simple experimental voting games; in each, voters are confronted with two distributional policies, one that promotes efficiency versus one that promotes equity. We find that as a social good, equity has more attraction than efficiency by about a two-to-one margin, even though those who deviate for efficiency pay on average less for it than those who deviate for equity. Strikingly, nearly half those who do not benefit (nor lose) from the Pareto choice vote against it; yet the same choice finds wide support when a fair random draw determines who captures the gain.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group in its series Papers on Strategic Interaction with number 2003-12.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esi:discus:2003-12

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References

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  1. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "Beyond Bentham – Measuring Procedural Utility," CESifo Working Paper Series 492, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  3. Jean-Robert Tyran & Rupert Sausgruber, 2002. "A Little Fairness may Induce a Lot of Redistribution in Democracy," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2002 2002-30, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
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  14. Gary E Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 2005. "Fair Procedures: Evidence from Games Involving Lotteries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 1054-1076, October.
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  16. Okada, Akira & Riedl, Arno, 2005. "Inefficiency and social exclusion in a coalition formation game: experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 278-311, February.
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