Saturday, May 31, 2008

Freeloaders and Cooperation

Classical Values (see blogroll) has yet another fascinating post, this one on the psychology of earning, cooperating, greed, and envy. I kid you not, go read it--well written, full to the brim with great information.

Here are some exceptional snippets from it.

Cooperation always breaks down if people can't punish.

In a kindergarten setting, such lessons in altruism are much easier to impart, and easier to justify, because after all, whatever possessions or money children have is generally given to them by adult authority figures, and is thus "free."

The bottom line is that it's not only a lot easier to share free money, it's a lot easier to become morally indignant with those who don't. But those who didn't earn their fair share are much more likely to be "generous" with what they didn't earn, and less tolerant of the reluctance of those who earned their money to share it.

Carried to an extreme, this leads the freeloading classes to paradoxically accuse those on whose hard work they depend -- their benefactors -- of being greedy. Of being "freeloaders" for not wanting to pay "their fair share."

Which makes about as much sense as parasites accusing their host of parasitism.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm thinking that there may be a direct relationship between resentment and greed. Think about it this way: if the more productive classes are resented for having more, and if they are also resented even if they pay more, it begs the question of whether the resentment of them stems from a poorly understood aspect of human nature which touches on the Twain distinction between man and dog. Suppose for the sake of argument that there is some natural, biologically based resentment of the "helping" classes by the classes who are "helped." (Hence the quotes.) The result is that the productive are in a no-win situation; they are resented for having earned more, and also resented for helping the non-productive classes. OK, it being a given that humans dislike being resented, if they're going to be resented either way, what's in it for them by being helpers? Other than not wanting to go to prison, I don't know.

But I strongly suspect that the more the productive classes are resented for being "greedy," the greedier they'll actually become.

Go read the whole thing.

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