Economics at your fingertips  

The effect of an experimental veil of ignorance on intergenerational resource sharing: empirical evidence from a sequential multi-person dictator game

Stephan Wolf and Cameron Dron

Ecological Economics, 2020, vol. 175, issue C

Abstract: Based on Rawls's Veil, one may question the legitimacy of many decisions made by the currently living where burdens are shifted onto future generations. For Rawls, this is normatively unacceptable: knowing their place in the generational sequence, the current generation fails to decide from an impartial perspective. Starting from this, we conducted a laboratory experiment on intergenerational resource sharing with 310 student participants. One part had to distribute a given endowment over 5 generations in the form of a sequential dictator game. In a second treatment, people could ex-ante agree on a joint distribution; there was no formal enforcement mechanism, and people knew their position in the sequence. The third treatment also included a bargaining stage, but people were ignorant about their later position. As expected, bargaining as such created more equality, but to our surprise, the third treatment produced less egalitarian outcomes than the second one. This is bad news for future generations: If those adversely affected are not identifiable as existing humans, the currently living are less ready to constrain themselves. Generally, our results are more compatible with Adam Smith's empathetic Impartial Spectator, rather than the hypothetical, veiled decision maker à la Rawls.

Keywords: Intergenerational Justice; Veil of Ignorance; Laboratory Experiment; Social Contract (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link)
Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106662

Access Statistics for this article

Ecological Economics is currently edited by C. J. Cleveland

More articles in Ecological Economics from Elsevier
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Catherine Liu ().

Page updated 2021-09-10
Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:175:y:2020:i:c:s0921800919305087