Viewpoint by Dan Ariely

Professor of behavioural economics, Duke University, USA


“So, we took the American society and we asked people to imagine it divided into five buckets, the wealthiest 20%, the next 20%, the next, the next and the poorest 20%.

First of all, we asked people: how much wealth do you think is concentrated in each of those buckets?

It turns out people get it very wrong.

Even Americans understand that inequality is not a good idea and principle”

The reality is that the bottom two buckets together, the bottom 40% of Americans, own 0.3% of the wealth; 0.3%, almost nothing, whereas the top 20% own about 84% of the wealth.

And people don’t understand it. They don’t understand how much wealth the top have and in particular, they don’t understand how little the bottom has.

But then we described to people Rawls’ definition, the veil of ignorance, and the idea they could end up anywhere. And we said: What society would you like to create? How much wealth? How would you like to distribute the wealth?

And it turns out people created a society that is much more equal than any society on Earth. It was much more equal than Sweden.”


Is this a remnant of serfdom?