Diane Trout (alienghic) wrote,
Diane Trout

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Punish the cheaters

I believe that differences in perception about who is "cheating" is what separates conservatives from liberals.

First some background about our understanding of fairness. One interesting discovery in the realm of experimental economics is that people have an innate tendency to try and punish cheaters. In one experimental game there are two actors, one who gets to determine the split of a cash prize and the other who can veto the distribution but has no other input on the split.

What the researchers discovered is that if the split becomes worse than about 1/3rd (I think) the vetoer will block the award. From a purely rational standpoint, as long as they get something you shouldn't ever actual veto the transaction, as some award is more than you had before.

However it seems that we have evolved a system that encourages us to punish those who "cheat" even if we can't benefit from the punishment, as teaching people a modicum of social responsibility benefits society as a whole.

What I recently realized is that conservatives and liberals focus on different forms of "cheating".

The conservatives complain mightily about the "welfare mother" who takes government handouts and never contribute productively to society. The reforms of the liberals of taxing the rich and redistributing to the poor seem to them to be the "lazy" exploiting them, the hard diligent workers.

The liberals talk about how the rich became rich not through their own hard work, but by the gifts of parents, luck, or better access to power. To them the redistribution of wealth is just because it evens out "cheating" due to "unfair" initial conditions.

I think this also explains why wealthy, straight, white, land owners tend to be conservatives. Since they have never always been operating in a space of privilege it never occurs to them that people might not have access to the same opportunities that they have had. Those who are further on the margins of society, have practical experience in the limitations imposed on them by their lack of access to social privilege.

The child in the inner city born to poor parents and educated in a crumbling school will never have the same access to social privilege that the wealthy child raised in the finest boarding schools will have. Those that believe that is true tend to be liberals, while those who think it false are conservatives.

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