Every politician, in every nation and in every era of history, eventually has to face a complex and emotive question. Should I try to redistribute money from my richer citizens to my poorer citizens? If so, by how much? This is a timeless issue. The appropriate answer to the question turns crucially on a claim that goes back hundreds of years to, for example, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham: “All inequality is a source of evil—the inferior loses more in the account of happiness than by the superior is gained.” In an ideal world, a hypothesis of this sort would be tested in a giant randomized controlled trial (RCT), perhaps funded by a body such as the National Science Foundation of the United States. However, no funding body is likely to provide the necessary millions of dollars to run that experiment-until now. In a remarkable and important contribution to conceptual science and practical public policy, Ryan Dwyer and Elizabeth Dunn have—with the help of millionaire donors—run an RCT that comes close to that ideal.
Inequality, well-being, and the problem of the unknown reporting function. Caspar Kaiser and Andrew J. Oswald. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, Vol. 119, No. 50, December 13, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2217750119