Sharing the marbles?

Posted: 21 February 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

How do we get the rich to share the proverbial marbles?

Jonathan Haidt suggests, based on recent research within developmental psychology, that we focus less on distributive fairness and more on procedural fairness:

which is about whether honest, open and impartial procedures were used to decide who got what. If there’s a problem with the ultra-rich, it’s not that they have too much wealth, it’s that they bought laws that made it easy for them to gain and keep so much more wealth in recent decades.

The problem is, even if the procedures are open and transparent, it’s still the case that the rules of capitalism are such that those who produce the surplus marbles play no role in deciding how many there will be or what will be done with them.

Another way of sharing the marbles is to build on the finding concerning collaboration:

But here’s the most amazing condition — a slight variation that reveals a deep truth. Things start off just as in the first condition: you and your partner see two ropes hanging out of the machine. But as you start tugging it becomes clear that they are two separate ropes. You pull yours, and one marble rolls out into your cup. Your partner pulls the other rope, and is rewarded with three marbles. What happens next?

For the most part, it’s pullers-keepers. Even though you and your partner each did the same work (rope pulling) at more or less the same time, you both know that you didn’t really collaborate to produce the wealth. Only about 30% of the time did the kids work out an equal split. In other words, the “share-the-spoils” button is not pressed by the mere existence of inequality. It is pressed when two or more people collaborated to produce a gain. Once the button is pressed in both brains, both parties willingly and effortlessly share.

It’s precisely that idea of collaboration—or, if you prefer, of the social—that leads in a different direction, not of either distributive or procedural fairness within the existing rules but instead of the idea that the surplus marbles are produced socially and therefore should be disposed of socially. In other words, it’s the community that both creates and relies on the surplus marbles. Therefore, it’s the community that should have the ultimate say in what should be done with them.

Sure, let’s have more open and transparent rules but let’s make sure the rules themselves embody the idea of collaboration in disposition of the surplus marbles in the very structure of economic and social institutions.

  1. […] seem now to be doing. We’ve seen studies of “social class as culture,” “sharing the marbles,” and much […]

  2. […] of the rich,” which involves studies of “social class as culture” and “sharing the marbles.” And, of course, there’s the infamous 2013 manslaughter trial of Ethan Couch, whose […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s