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Strong reciprocity and the welfare state

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Fong, Christina M. & Bowles, Samuel & Gintis, Herbert, 2006. "Strong reciprocity and the welfare state," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:2-23
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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(5-6), pages 372-394, June.
    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. Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & Marc Sangnier, 2016. "Trust and the Welfare State: the Twin Peaks Curve," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 861-883, June.
    5. 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.
    6. Hahn, Volker & Mühe, Felix, 2009. "Committees and reciprocity," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 26-47, January.
    7. David Chavanne & Kevin A. McCabe & Maria Pia Paganelli, 2015. "Are Self-Made Men Made Equally? An Experimental Test of Impartial Redistribution and Perceptions of Self-Determination," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 40, pages 1-3.
    8. Arrondel, Luc & Masson, Andre, 2006. "Altruism, exchange or indirect reciprocity: what do the data on family transfers show?," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier.
    9. Bügelmayer, Elisabeth & Katharina Spiess, C., 2014. "Spite and cognitive skills in preschoolers," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 154-167.
    10. 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.
    11. Lind, Jo Thori, 2007. "Fractionalization and the size of government," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 51-76, February.
    12. Philipp Poppitz, 2011. "The Collective Risk of Inequality: a Social Dilemma calling for a Solution?," Macroeconomics and Finance Series 201106, Hamburg University, Department Wirtschaft und Politik.
    13. 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).
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & Marc Sangnier, 2016. "Trust and the Welfare State: the Twin Peaks Curve," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 861-883, June.
    17. Domenico Rossignoli & Mario A. Maggioni & Simona Beretta & Sara Balestri, 2017. "Growing up in Africa Age and Pro-social attitudes in Primary Schoolchildren in Goma (DRC)," DISEIS - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo dis1704, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo (DISEIS).
    18. Anna Panova, 2014. "Contracts, Job Security And Development Of The University," HSE Working papers WP BRP 66/EC/2014, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    19. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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