The Importance of Fairness for Cooperation in Public-Goods Dilemmas
"Thou shalt not steal." Whether or not this was news to the Israelites is unknown to us, but the fact that it has been handed down to us signifies that rules or norms are important in society. Sometimes they are handed down in order to establish a proper social behavior, other times they summarize established proper conduct. One of their functions, we guess, is to restrain egoistic incentives in favor of collective outcomes. To take but one example: tax evasion among Swedish citizens is more determined by beliefs about other citizens' inclination to evade rather than beliefs about actual possibilities to escape discovery ( Laurin, 1986). In other words, citizens are guided by a norm concerning proper behavior instead of evaluating how much they can earn from tax evasion.
This chapter attempts to show that norms about distributive justice, such as equity and equality, can have an important effect when people decide whether to contribute to a common good or not. We will also suggest that preferences for justice principles vary across situations as well as between groups of members in society. We will do this based on evidence from experiments and a survey investigating the resource for child care. But before we present such evidence, we will justify why we believe that norms deserve attention in social dilemma research.
In 1944 von Neumann and Morgenstern published their expected-utility theory of decision making. Their work was a normative model specifying