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Friedman, Harsanyi, Rawls, Boulding - Or Somebody Else? An Experimental Investigation of Distributive Justice

  • Stefan Traub
  • Christian Seidl
  • Ulrich Schmidt
  • M. Vittoria Levati

This paper investigates distributive justice using a fourfold experimental design: The ignorance and the risk scenarios are combined with the self-concern and the umpire modes. We study behavioral switches between self-concern and umpire mode and investigate the goodness of ten standards of behavior. In the ignorance scenario, subjects became, on average, less inequality-averse as umpires. A within-subjects analysis shows that about one half became less inequality-averse, one quarter became more inequality-averse and one quarter remained unchanged as umpires. In the risk scenario, subjects become on average more inequality-averse in their umpire roles. A within-subjects analysis shows that about half became more inequality-averse, one quarter became less inequality-averse, and one quarter remained unchanged as umpires. As to the standards of behavior, several prominent ones (leximin, leximax, Gini, Cobb-Douglas) were not supported, while expected utility, Boulding's hypothesis, the entropy social welfare function, and randomization preference enjoyed impressive acceptance. For the risk scenario, the tax standard of behavior joins the favorite standards of behavior.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group in its series Papers on Strategic Interaction with number 2003-19.

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Length: 34 pages
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Handle: RePEc:esi:discus:2003-19
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  1. Robert H. Strotz, 1961. "How Income Ought To Be Distributed: Paradox Regained," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 271.
  2. Konow, James, 2001. "Fair and square: the four sides of distributive justice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-164, October.
  3. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
  4. Norman Frohlich & Joe Oppenheimer, 1994. "Preferences for Income Distribution and Distributive Justice: A Window on the Problems of Using Experimental Data in Economics and Ethics," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 147-155, Spring.
  5. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1978. "Measures of relative equality and their meaning in terms of social welfare," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 59-80, June.
  6. Schokkaert, Erik & Capeau, Bart, 1991. "Interindividual Differences in Opinions about Distributive Justice," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 325-45.
  7. Steven R. Beckman & Buhong Zheng & John P. Formby & W. James Smith, 2002. "Envy, malice and Pareto efficiency: An experimental examination," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 349-367.
  8. Frank A Cowell & Emmanuel Flachaire, 2002. "Sensitivity of Inequality Measures to Extreme Values," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 60, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  9. Cowell, F A, 1985. "'A Fair Suck of the Sauce Bottle' or What Do You Mean by Inequality?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 61(173), pages 567-79, June.
  10. Gaertner, Wulf & Jungeilges, Jochen & Neck, Reinhard, 2001. "Cross-cultural equity evaluations: A questionnaire-experimental approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 953-963, May.
  11. Epstein, Larry G & Segal, Uzi, 1992. "Quadratic Social Welfare Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 691-712, August.
  12. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
  13. Frank Cowell, 2006. "Inequality: measurement," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2686, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  14. Kanbur, S M, 1979. "Of Risk Taking and the Personal Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 769-97, August.
  15. Peter A. Diamond, 1967. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparison of Utility: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 765.
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