Stuffing Envelopes By Steven Landsurg
- This is a story about some economists who set out to study altruism and ended up discovering something very frightening about human nature.
- Adam Smith. who needs altruism when we've got greed?... greed can be far more efficient than altruism. An altruistic butcher can't serve his neighbors well unless he knows how many want beef on the table and how many want chicken.
- Edempio. If you happen to like this article so much that you decide to buy a lifetime subscription to REASON, some Asian farmer has to grow another linseed plant. That's because the ink in this magazine is made from linseed oil. How does the Asian farmer know you need more linseed? Because rising subscription numbers set off a chain reaction: They raise the demand for ink, which raises the price of ink, which raises the demand for linseed, which raises the price of linseed.
- economists spend a lot of time theorizing about both the prevalence and the consequences of altruism. Enter Vernon Smith.
- Here's one of Smith's experiments: Two total strangers are placed in separate rooms. They never meet, they never learn each others' names, and they come and go by separate entrances. One of them is selected randomly to receive 10 one-dollar bills and an envelope. He can put any number of bills in the envelope and send it by messenger to the other subject. Then everyone takes his money and goes home. Simple economics predicts that no money ever goes in the envelope. 1/3 dà.
- Not even Mother Teresa was in the habit of sending money to total strangers about whom she knew nothing.
- Why, then, does any money ever get passed to the other room? My guess is that it has nothing to do with altruism or charity and everything to do with the subjects' suspicion that they're being observed
- La seconda inquietante versione dell'esperimento. subjects know that everything they put in the envelope will get tripled by the experimenter before it's sent to the other room... virtually all of the subjects put at least a dollar in the envelope... In other words, subjects give more generously when they can get a bigger bang for their buck.
- La scoperta: they're paying for the privilege of taking money away from one total stranger -- namely the taxpayer
- Da notare: the subjects do all this without knowing anything at all about either stranger or having any reason to believe that one is more deserving than the other... It's not like they're taking from the rich to give to the poor; they're just randomly taking from some people so they can give to others.
- they just plain enjoy the capricious exercise of power, bestowing good fortune on some and bad fortune on others
- Conclusione. the reason we have a redistributive tax system is not because people want to help the poor or the unfortunate or the incapacitated; it's because people enjoy moving other people's money around just to make mischief.
- Tentativo di assolvere: They're just not conscious of the fact that the money they transfer has to come from somewhere."
- Replica: These subjects are mostly university students, and they don't realize that when you give away money, it has to come from somewhere? And we allow these people to vote?