A Positive Theory of Economic Fairness

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This paper presents a positive theory of economic fairness which strives for generality by characterizing the fairness values which people share across differing contexts. The study attempts to isolate these underlying values from the more situation-specific perceptual effects (e.g., framing effects) which may have an impact on reported fairness. Central to the proposed theory is the Accountability Principle which, roughly speaking, requires that a person's fair allocation (e.g., of income) vary in proportion to the relevant variables which he can influence (e.g., work effort), but not according to those which he cannot reasonably influence (e.g., a physical handicap). The results of telephone interviews and written questionnaires are presented in support of the theory.


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