Falsi problemi: la diseguaglianza

Why people prefer unequal societies di Christina Starmans, Mark Sheskin e Paul Bloom

Tutti sembrano preoccupati per le diseguaglianze sociali…

… There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal…

Ma alla gente delle diseguaglianze sociali interessa poco

… However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies…. there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality…

Per la gente è altro ciò che conta nella vita sociale, per esempio la correttezza e il rispetto delle regole…

… they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness…

Ma perché allora ancora oggi si fa tanto chiasso intorno alle diseguaglianze?…

… Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones…

Alcuni esempi dei tipici del “chiasso” di cui sopra…

Pope Francis remarked that “inequality is the root of social evil”, while President Obama called economic inequality “the defining challenge of our time”. A recent Pew report found that Europeans and Americans judged inequality as posing the greatest threat to the world, beating religious and ethnic hatred, pollution, nuclear weapons, and diseases like AIDS… This interest is reflected in the extent of attention to Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century,, and is grounded in a growing public and scholarly appreciation of the startling extent of economic inequality…

Il desiderio di eguaglianza informa intere campagne politiche.

Robin Hood ha colto nel segno…

… Frans de Waal nicely summarizes a broad consensus across many fields when he writes: “Robin Hood had it right. Humanity’s deepest wish is to spread the wealth.”…

Tuttavia…

… when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies….

Il messaggio contro le diseguaglianze fa presa e allo stesso tempo alla gente le diseguaglianze non interessano. Come riconciliare questi due fatti?

Un modo per farlo consiste nel segnalare una confusione cruciale…

… bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness…

***

Il concetto di “inequality aversion” è noto agli studiosi ma si fonda su una sperimentazione di laboratorio fallace…

… We suggest that the perception that there is a preference for equality arises through an undue focus on special circumstances, often studied in the laboratory, where inequality and unfairness coincide…

Il bias di fondo porta a confondere eguaglianza e correttezza, due concetti ben diversi.

Ecco una classica situazione da laboratorio…

… indeed, when subjects in laboratory studies are asked to divide resources among unrelated individuals, they tend to divide them equally,. If a previous situation has led to a pre-existing inequality, people will divide future resources unequally in order to correct or minimize the inequality between others…

Esempio paradossale: vuoi salvare più vite producendo più cure mediche? No se sono distribuite in modo diseguale…

… people object to medical interventions that would save more lives overall by reducing cure rates for a small group of people and increasing cure rates for a larger group of people…

E nei bambini la musica non cambia…

… Three-year-olds divide resources equally among third parties,, and, although they are typically selfish when they themselves are involved in the interaction, even three-year-olds report that they should share equally. Six-year-olds show an even stronger commitment… Even more tellingly, children are just as likely to reject unequal distributions when they reflect generosity (the distributor gave up all her candies to the receiver) as when they reflect selfishness (the distributor kept all the candies for herself)…. When twelve-month-old infants saw a puppet distribute two items to two other puppets, they looked at the scene longer when the distributor gave both toys to one puppet than when she gave the puppets one toy each, suggesting that they were surprised by the unequal distribution…

Ma fuori dal laboratorio, nella vita reale, le cose cambiano radicalmente…

… Given these findings, one might expect that when people are asked to distribute resources across a real-world group of people, they would choose an equal distribution of resources across all segments of society. But they do not…

Le diseguaglianze sono molto più tollerate e viste con simpatia…

… the data suggest that when it comes to real-world distributions of wealth, people have a preference for a certain amount of inequality…

Una verità riscontrabile in tutte le culture

… This preference for inequality materializes in 16 other countries,, across people on both the left and right of the political spectrum, and in teenagers…

Esempio: se parliamo di gerarchia tra classi le diseguaglianze sono mal tollerate. Se invece quantifichiamo il reddito medio ritenuto equo per ciascuna classe sociale, le diseguaglianze sono accettate…

… One follow-up study contrasted Norton and Ariely’s question about the percentage of wealth that should correspond to each quintile of the American population with a question about what the average wealth should be in each quintile. The former question resulted in an ideal ratio of poorest to wealthiest of about 1/ 4, but for the latter question the ratio jumped to 1/ 50…

Il problema: come riconciliare laboratorio e realtà

… How can this preference for inequality in the real world be reconciled with the strong preference for equality found in laboratory studies? We suggest that this discrepancy arises because the laboratory findings reviewed above…

Semplice: l’eguaglianza in sé non interessa, quel che interessa è la correttezza, a cui l’eguaglianza potrebbe rinviare in assenza di info. Ma quando le info ci sono…

… do not in fact provide evidence that an aversion to inequality is driving the preference for equal distribution. Instead, these findings are all consistent with both a preference for equality and with a preference for fairness, because the studies are designed so that the equal outcome is also the fair one…

Esempi di confusione tra eguaglianza e correttezza…

… For example, in the study in which children had to award erasers to two boys who had cleaned up their room and chose to throw out the extra eraser, both boys were described as having done a good job. But when children were told that one boy did more work than the other, they awarded the extra eraser to the hard worker…

Una volta fatte le dovute precisazioni, il premio in eccesso che riceve chi lavora sodo o chi è più disponibile viene considerato giusto e accettato senza problemi…

… This preference for inequality is not restricted to situations where one person has done more work, but also extends to rewarding people who previously acted helpfully or unhelpfully…

Anche un’allocazione delle risorse affidata alla sorte viene accettata…

… As a final twist, consider a situation with two individuals, identical in all relevant regards, where one gets 10 dollars and the other gets nothing. This is plainly unequal, but is it fair? It can be, if the allocation was random. Adults consider it fair to use impartial procedures such as coin flips and lotteries when distributing many different kinds of resources…

Quel che non viene accettata è una diseguaglianza frutto di scorrettezze e prepotenza.

Quando lo sforzo, l’abilità, il talento, il merito e anche la sorte stann dietro una diseguaglianza, allora le diseguaglianze vengono accettate.

Per questo il libero mercato è allo stesso tempo visto come equo e come fonte di diseguaglianze…

… Americans regard the American market system to be a fair procedure for wealth allocation, and, accordingly, believe strongly in the possibility of social mobility…

***

Una volta accertato nell’ animo umano un fondamentale desiderio di diseguaglianza, come giustificarlo? Perché madre natura ce l’ha insinuato?

Spesso quel che conta per noi è il confronto relativo e non tanto la ricchezza assoluta che si possiede…

… Obviously people have selfish motivations, but what is interesting here is that these desires are not always for increasing one’s absolute amount, but are often for increasing one’s standing relative to others…

La diseguaglianza potrebbe essere preferita perché consente di avere più del vicino.

Molti invece considerano che la diseguaglianza sia apprezzata per gli incentivi che dispiega…

… A further motivation for inequality may come from the idea that inequality is necessary to motivate industriousness and allow for social mobility… Not surprisingly, then, a belief in meritocratic mobility is associated with more tolerance for inequality…

Chi vede mobilità sociale, tollera più diseguaglianze…

… For example, Americans might have an unreasonable tolerance for inequality in part because they tend to overestimate the extent of mobility in the United States…

Ma perché gli americani percepiscono una mobilità sociale maggiore di quella effettiva?

Forse perché le forti diseguaglianze di fatto scindono nettamente mobilità relativa e mobilità assoluta: si può migliore molto la propria condizione senza scalare posizioni sociali…

… One reason for this lack of mobility is that the income distribution in the United States— the distance between the poorest and richest citizens— is much greater than in rival countries…

***

Nel giudizio sulle diseguaglianze conta la psicologia. Tipi diversi danno giudizi diversi…

… Norton and Ariely found that women, Democrats, and the poor desired relatively more equal distributions than men, Republicans, and the wealthy, and were also more accurate in estimating the extent of current inequality…

Le diseguaglianze che registriamo hanno una base di correttezza?

Stando ai differenziali di produttività dovrebbero essere anche maggiori…

… a strict meritocracy, where everyone’s income was strictly proportional to their productivity, would result in an extremely unequal society, with the top 10% earning more than 50% of the nation’s wealth…

***

Ma perché la correttezza è tanto importante nel nostro giudizio?

Un’ipotesi sul suo fondamento morale

… For cooperation and prosociality to evolve, there has to be some solution to the problem of free-riders, cheaters, and bad actors. The usual explanation for this is that we have evolved a propensity to make bad behaviour costly and good behaviour beneficial, through punishment and reward,. That is, we respond differently to individuals based on what one can see as their ‘deservingness’— responses that are present even in infants…

L’egalitarismo non presenta questi aspetti di socialità. Solo l’enfasi sulla correttezza facilita la cooperazione tra diversi…

… To treat everyone equally would entail penalization of more productive individuals when they collaborate with less productive individuals relative to highly productive individuals. In contrast with equality, fairness allows individuals with different levels of productivity to share the benefits of their collaboration proportionately…

***

Dubbio: non è che la diseguaglianza, anche se preferita, crea danni?…

… While concerns about fairness, along with other considerations, may motivate a preference for inequality, there are, of course, various countervailing psychological forces that lead to an equality preference…

Potrebbe, per esempio, renderci più infelici

… For one thing, as inequality increases, self-reported happiness diminishes, especially among the bottom 40% of income earners…

Esiste infatti un’asimmetria della soddisfazione…

… those on the lower end of the scale report less job satisfaction, but those on the higher end of the scale do not report any greater… This has negative effects for productivity too: workers who know they are on the low side of the distribution decrease their effort…

Ma anche qui, siamo sicuri che in questi giudizi il fattore correttezza non interferisca?…

… Still, as Tyler points out, it is not clear whether the corrosive effects of inequality on happiness are due to inequality per se, or due to the perception of unfair inequality. That is, it is an open question…

Altri guai portati dalla diseguaglianza…

… Nevertheless, inequality in a society also predicts a greater degree of violence, obesity, teenage pregnancy, and interpersonal distrust…

***

Da un punto di vista morale non sembrano esserci dubbi: meglio un minimo garantito che l’eguaglianza…

… A related case against a focus on equality has been made recently by Frankfurt, who argues on normative grounds that people shouldn’t care about reducing inequality. What really matters, he argues, is that everyone has a sufficient amount to live a decent life. Frankfurt acknowledges that a focus on improving the situation of the most needy may reduce inequality as a side effect, but argues that this reduction is not, in itself, a moral good…

***

Una cosa è certa: con gli equivoci segnalati la politica ci gioca

… Worries about inequality are conflated with worries about poverty, an erosion of basic rights, and— as we have focused on here— unfairness…

Buona norma: spostare il fuoco della discussione politica escludendo chi parla in modo disonesto di “diseguaglianze” senza riferimenti alla correttezza…

… If it’s true that inequality in itself isn’t really what is bothering people, then we might be better off by more carefully pulling apart these concerns, and shifting the focus to the problems that matter to us more…

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