No, no, no:
This instinct broadens into wanting not to cheat, and instead to co-operate.
No, that\’s not what the research says at all. For this reason which you mention but which you fail to understand.
Behavioural psychologists tell us that human beings come down disproportionately hard on those who cheat on the agreed rules for their own advantage.
You are once again showing that you really don\’t know your economics. This is all an offshoot of game theory, usually best known to us as the Prisoner\’s Dilemma.
Broadly put, the outcomes of this huge amount of research are that humans pretty much always are willing and ready to cheat. But it\’s the social enforcement, the punishing of those who breach the agreed rules, which do a reasonable job of keeping us on the straight and narrow.
Endless experiments have been done which show that humans will punish, at cost to themselves, people who are thought to be offering an \”unfair\” deal. Or who are thought to be violating some unwritten rules of what Homo Sapiens Sapiens thinks is \”right\”.
That\’s the very opposite of concluding that there is some instinct to not want to cheat. That\’s proof that the instinct is there, but there\’s a limiting mechanism imposed by others.
The thing is though, for this to work, for the social pressures to be effective, there has to be agreement upon what is \”fair\”. Something might violate the law but not that sense of fairness: in which case the social enforcement mechanisms won\’t work, because they are indeed triggered by that sense of fairness. The lesson of which is that if what you want, or the rules that you try to impose, are considered \”unfair\” then that very same human instinct towards punishing unfairness rebounds upon you, the rule maker.
Vast areas of the country are awash in smuggled cigarettes: because that sense of fairness thinks that £5 a pack and rising to help fund the Work Foundation is an unfair imposition. We simply don\’t see people turning in the sellers of these illegal packs of baccy.
There are other things as well of course:
The consensus is that next year\’s rise in the top tax rate to 50% will raise hardly any extra revenue, for high earners will successfully cheat on their obligations.
You\’re using a very wide definition of \”cheat\” there. There will be some who simply decide to substitute leisure for income: is that \”cheating\”?
This is amusing really:
The outstripping of the top 0.1% from the rest – in sport and business alike – has undermined the core belief in reciprocity on which association and rule-keeping depends.
The top 0.1% in the UK starts at about £350,000 as income. Will Hutton gets something like £175,000 a year from the Work Foundation. Grand a time for these newspaper columns say? That\’s another £50k. I don\’t know if he gets paid as a trustee of the Scott Trust or not but even if not, add in book royalties and I\’d suggest that our Will is indede part of that top 0.1%.
Clearly something about Will\’s moral compass that means that those social mores keep their hold upon him but not everyone else, eh?
They can behave unfairly without consequence.
Would that be like liquidating the capital assets of the Industrial Society so as to pay the wages of the Director of the Work Foundation then Will?
But the inequality which has caused all this has needed a justification, supplied by the pushers of market fundamentalism and neoconservatism.
Sure, and here it is. Globalisation causes an increase in inequality within a country or economy: those at the very top of the talent/luck distribution are able to play that talent/luck globally rather than simply nationally as before.
You might note that inequality has been rising in all of the advanced countries in the last couple of decades.
The flip side is that globalisation reduces global inequality: you\’ll have noted those hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese rising from destitution to the middle class.
But enough of such quibbles. The real problem is that Will has failed to note that precisely because we have a social enforcement system against cheating means that we are not naturally not cheaters. IThe existence of the mechanism means that we must naturally be cheaters.