Friday, May 10, 2019

Left-wingers are more skeptical & averse towards the very rich, which causes them to take the risk of punishing an honest high earner; although cheating is against the rules, rightists seem to want to review every case individually

Suspicious Success — Cheating, Inequality Acceptance, and Political Preferences. Felix Klimm. European Economic Review, May 10 2019.

Abstract: Supporters of left-wing parties typically place more emphasis on redistributive policies than right-wing voters. I investigate whether this difference in tolerating inequality is affected by suspicious success — achievements that may arise from cheating. Using a laboratory experiment, I exogenously vary cheating opportunities for stakeholders who work on a real effort task and earn money according to their self-reported performances. An impartial spectator is able to redistribute the earnings between the stakeholders, although it is not possible to detect cheating. I find that the opportunity to cheat leads to different views on whether to accept inequality. Left-wing spectators substantially reduce inequality when cheating is possible, while the treatment has no significant effect on choices of right-wing spectators. Since neither differences in beliefs nor differences in norms about cheating can explain this finding, it seems to be driven by a difference in redistributive preferences. These results suggest that views on redistribution will diverge even more once public awareness increases that inequality may be to a certain extent created by cheating.

My results complement the literature in several dimensions. First, in line with the literature on dishonesty (e.g., Abeler et al., forthcoming), I find that some subjects are cheating but not all of them to the full extent. Second, supporting the findings of Cappelen et al. (2016), the results of the Monitor treatment show that left-wing and right-wing supporters do not differ in their redistributive preferences when the sources of inequality are certain. Third, whereas Bortolotti et al. (2017) investigate a different experimental setupthanIdo(e.g.,cheating in the luck domain instead of performance cheating), they also document that suspicious success affects what people consider to be a fair distribution. In addition, subjects with different fairness views exhibit the same beliefs about cheating in their experiment. This is in line with my finding that cheating beliefs do not differ across political preferences.

One might think of several explanations for why left-wing spectators take a higher risk of redistributing away from an honest stakeholder than right-wing spectators. For instance, left-wingers might be more skeptical and averse towards the very rich in general, which causes them to take the risk of punishing an honest high earner. Alternatively, right-wingers typically put more emphasis on the rule of law than left-wingers and could therefore be more reluctant to judge somebody without having proof.24 Even though cheating is against the rules, right-wingers seem to want to review every case individually.

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