We discovered that 92% of Americans preferred the distribution of “Equalden” to America’s. And if one were to assume that the 8% who preferred America’s distribution was made up of wealthy Republican men, he or she would be mistaken. The preference for “Equalden” was slightly different for Republicans and Democrats, and in the expected direction, but the magnitude was very small: 93.5% of Democrats and 90.2% of Republicans preferred the more equal distribution. While this 3.3% difference is substantial when we think about the economy of an entire country, if we look at it from the perspective of the gap between Equalden and the U.S., it’s clear that the similarity across the political spectrum is far more substantial than the differences. And once again, participant’s gender and income level did not produce any appreciable difference in this preference.
There are a few lessons that we can learn from this. The first is that we vastly underestimate the level of inequality that we have in America. Our society is far more uneven in terms of wealth than we believe it is. Second, we want much more equality than both what we have and what we think we have. Apparently, when asked in a way that avoids hot-button terms, misconceptions, and the level of wealth people currently possess, Americans are actually in agreement about wanting a more equal distribution of wealth. In fact, the vast majority of Americans prefer a distribution of wealth more equal than what exists in Sweden, which is often placed rhetorically at the extreme far left in terms of political ideology–embraced by liberals as an ideal society and disparaged by conservatives as an overreaching socialist nanny state.
Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It) – Dan Ariely – The Atlantic. The “planted axiom” (as the logicians used to say) of this post is that people are willing to act politically to achieve the level of equality they prefer. But that’s obviously not true. I might very well prefer a situation without willing to do what it takes to get it. I might think that economic equality would be great if it just happened, but that doesn’t mean that I would endorse a political system that would enforce it.