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May 27, 2013



Re "What's striking about this experiment is that such behaviour emerges so easily, without the aid of ideology ..."

But in another context, say a gift economy, this behaviour does not easily emerge. In fact, the opposite (in the sense of actions that minimise or mitigate inequalities) happens.

Of course, gift economies presume a far narrower spread of wealth (or surplus). The economy in the quoted model presumes a more rigid class hierarchy and greater inequality across all classes.

Given that both behaviours appear to arise "naturally", I'd suggest that ideology is still at work. Stripped away, we are left with divide and rule.


To build on FATE's comment and head off a little tangentially...

This is one of the major blind spots of political science (economics is so blind on this, you can't even call it a spot):

The default assumption is that preferences arise "naturally" - there's next to no study of how preferences change and are changed, both by structure and by ideology and propaganda and more...


To some extent relative wealth positions matter a great deal, and rationally. With great wealth differences come large power differences and the ability to abuse them. Especially in pay-per-play politics like in the USA.

Companies in the marketplace often have strategies meant to hurt competitors at no profit to themselves, because competitors with less cash and other resources are better for those companies.


Does this idea shed light on other areas? Eg gay marriage "Gay marriage means I can't look down on gays anymore.'"

I'm sure there are better examples.


This plainly highlights that large scale immigration is a tool of the elite to keep the poor from reaching class consciousness. Stop immigration now!

Neil Wilson

"But in another context, say a gift economy, this behaviour does not easily emerge."

Yes it does. We have a gift economy now - one with unemployment benefit and other welfare benefits that require no reciprocation particularly if you have children.

And they are resented by their peers.


@Neil Wilson, You're obviously misusing the term "gift economy" in applying it to the UK today. We're not a subsistence economy dealing with occasional surpluses through formalised redistribution.

The resentment you note is the product of structural features (the persistence of unemployment and low wages) and compensatory ideology, rather than anything innate.


The limitation with this kind of game is exactly that ideology or psychological mechanisms may be innate or determined and we do not know which or when they are at work.

How do we explain charitable giving in this framework? How do we think about the standard model of rational maximization if people sacrifice gains to inflict harm? It is necessary to give up utilitarian ideas for some other set of status markers and social differentiation as motivating frameworks.


thanks for the paper reference, given we all have limited social groups and the associated intimate knowledge of other peoples lives reference group theory seems like common sense.

For liberals and democrats i wonder whether expanding our context of other peoples lives, in a way that is intimate and human rather than removed, could build solidarity within class groups.


I am always very skeptical about experiments of this kind.

But if we were to take it seriously, then it suggests 'top down' social engineering is the way to go. I.e. the Soviet model. Though I would argue that capitalist states engage in this social engineering to a large extent.

I am personally a libertarian socialist at heart, but I do think Marx and Engels were never entirely clear about their position, I certainly think they had their 'Stalinist' tendencies. Engels even claimed that population control would be easier under a socialist society then a capitalist one!

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