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Examining Theories of Distributive Justice with an Asymmetric Public Goods Game


  • Stephen J. Schmidt


In this article, the author presents an asymmetric version of the familiar public goods classroom experiment, in which some players are given more tokens to invest than others, and players collectively decide whether to divide the return to the group investment asymmetrically as well. The asymmetry between players raises normative issues about fairness, rights, and equality that are not present in the symmetric game, where efficiency is the major relevant normative concept. Playing the game in class requires students to confront the distributional question and shows how issues of efficiency can become entangled with other moral issues when solving economic policy problems. The game allows instructors to incorporate theories of distributive justice into economic reasoning in the classroom, as has been widely suggested recently.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen J. Schmidt, 2015. "Examining Theories of Distributive Justice with an Asymmetric Public Goods Game," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(3), pages 260-273, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:46:y:2015:i:3:p:260-273
    DOI: 10.1080/00220485.2015.1040181

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