IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Moral sentiments, democracy and redistributive politics: between nature and culture

  • Gilles Le Garrec

    (Observatoire Français des Conjonctures Économiques)

According to the standard economic approach, the level of redistribution in a democratic society is growing with the inequality of the income distribution. However, data do not support such a finding. In this article, we assert that the canonical model fails first in its basic assumption, the fundamental selfish nature of human beings. Following Adam Smith as well as modern cognitive sciences, we then suppose that a moral instinct coexists with a selfish one. It follows that democracy, based on an unanimous agreement and not on a majority of voters as in the standard approach, can be characterized by two different cultures. In the first one, in the spirit of Locke, individual property comes before the government. In such a culture, we show that a growing difference between median and mean incomes is not necessarely associated with a higher redistribution. In the second culture, in the spirit of Rousseau, the general will comes before particular interests. As a result, we find that in such a culture an increase of the top incomes can reduce the redistribution.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE) in its series Documents de Travail de l'OFCE with number 2007-09.

in new window

Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0709
Contact details of provider: Postal: 69, quai d'Orsay - 75007 PARIS
Phone: 01 44 18 54 00
Fax: 01 45 56 06 15
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Alberto Alesina & George-Marios Angeletos, 2004. "Fairness and Redistribution," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000283, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Roland Benabou, 2000. "Unequal Societies: Income Distribution and the Social Contract," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 96-129, March.
  3. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2005. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," NBER Working Papers 11208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Michel Forsé & Maxime Parodi, 2006. "Justice distributive. La hiérarchie des principes selon les Européens," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 98(3), pages 213-244.
  5. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2005. "The Economics of Fairness, Reciprocity and Altruism – Experimental Evidence and New Theories," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 66, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  6. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2005. "The Economics of Fairness, Reciprocity and Altruism – Experimental Evidence and New Theories," Discussion Papers in Economics 726, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Amartya Sen, 1997. "Maximization and the Act of Choice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 745-780, July.
  8. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-19, June.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Singer, Tania, 2005. "The Neuroconomics of Mind Reading and Empathy," CEPR Discussion Papers 5128, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. International Monetary Fund, 2003. "Income Inequality and Redistributive Government Spending," IMF Working Papers 03/14, International Monetary Fund.
  11. Alberto Alesina & Edward Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Why Doesn't the US Have a European-Style Welfare System?," NBER Working Papers 8524, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Luiz de Mello & Erwin R. Tiongson, 2006. "Income Inequality and Redistributive Government Spending," Public Finance Review, , vol. 34(3), pages 282-305, May.
  13. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  14. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0709. 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: (Francesco Saraceno)

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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.