Re-distribution of wealth experiment

August 20, 2013

 

I teach high school Social Science. After studying progressivism and specifically the graduated income tax in US History class, I conducted an experiment with my grading system. My experiment was hypothetical, but the students did not know that. I proceeded to suggest that this idea of raising the tax rate on the wealthy was a good idea since they had more than everyone else. This system would make the gap between rich and poor much smaller. I told them I thought we should try the same experiment on our classroom grades. The average grade for this particular class was currently a ‘C-‘ at this halfway point of the term. I explained the change in policy and the subsequent grade adjustment. Those students who had been lower than a C- were satisfied. Those who were higher complained. I told them that they still had time to work together as a class to increase the average by the end of the term and that essentially this is what happens with a graduated income tax although maybe at hyper speed.

Debrief:

I let the students vent and congratulate each other for a few minutes. Many started to describe the unfairness of this new system. They said things like, “I have worked very hard for my ‘A’. Why don’t I get to keep it?” Another student pointed out that regardless of how hard some may work, there will be a few who choose to do nothing and that will bring down the overall average. Those students who were lower than a C- liked the new system.

Conclusion:

Redistributing Wealth is inconsistent with human nature and our sense of fairness. It isn’t fair that someone who doesn’t work as hard, should get paid the same. Also, it seems like human nature that we won’t produce as much when working for the good of the group. If one gets to keep the fruits of his/her labor, then he/she is more likely to work harder. It seemed very likely that if we continued our experiment, the overall grade average would go down.

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