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March 09, 2015


Icarus Green

This is another way of putting the boiling frog problem.

The same can be said of tolerance for corruption in countries.

Luis Enrique

I imagine that philosophers are all over this kind of question, but how seriously should we take it for normative purposes? I mean, if people's subjective welfare is based on reference points etc. should that have any impact on redistributive policy?

I don't like that thought.

jesus alfaro

The veil of ignorance

Luis Enrique

Does that cover it Jesus? In the extreme suppose reference points are so powerful that your expected welfare is the same rich or poor, then behind veil of ignorance you'd be indifferent

Steven Clarke

This link is to a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on public attitudes to inequality.

On p.22 and 23 of the PDF are time series graphs of (i) public opinion on the income gap, and (ii) the Gini co-efficient, over the same time period:


Mike Hall

Except that other studies have shown that the vast majority of US citizens actually believe the US has considerably more equal outcomes in both income and wealth than the reality. Moreover, they still show a preference for a more equal outcome than the one they believe is the case.
I'm afraid I don't recall the details of who did this study, but it was recent.

Alex Bollinger

Mike, I think this is the link you're looking for:


of course there can be more than one cause for low apparent demand for equality. Also, that survey was about wealth inequality, which is much deeper in the US than income inequality, but people may have a hard time noticing wealth inequality or distinguishing it from income inequality.


tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis

William Meyer

Before we get to public perceptions of wealth inequality, it would be interesting to examine how the public understands the concept of "wealth" and "money". I strongly suspect they view it metaphorically. As in "wealth/money is rich red blood; if you have too little of it, you die." Hence the need for "sound money", gold enthusiasm, complaints about "debasing the currency," etc., etc. I wonder if a more accurate description of wealth--as in, control over other people's future labor--would change such distributions. A big problem for economics is that at root it is based on barely conscious or unconscious metaphors of the body--by the way, I think this is as large a problem for economics professors as for lay people, given the pains the profession has gone to in order to slide over these metaphors by using such empty expressions as "utility".

Art Vandalay

William Meyer does not understand economics, or economists, at all.

Zomby Poet

We should not tolerate this:

1) Female genital mutilation
2) Punishing rape victims
3) Honor killing
4) Strapping bombs to children
5) Sexually enslaving women
6) Murdering homosexuals
7) Child marriage

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