Equality or Efficiency, the Size of the Pie and Each Slice

A Plymouth Plantation Reprise

Nov 24, 2011 • Behavioral Economics, Economic Debates, Economic History, Households, Labor, Macroeconomic Measurement, Thinking Economically • 198 Views    No Comments

Perhaps even more relevant today, this was our blog for last Thanksgiving:

In 1623, two years after the first Thanksgiving, Governor William Bradford was worried about Plymouth’s food supply. The problem, he concluded, was that people shared whatever they produced. Because “able and fit” young men were expected to work harder and then give their food to others, all worked less.

As Bradford explained it in Of Plymouth Plantation,”So they began to think how they…could…obtain a better crop than they had done…At length…the Governor…so assigned to every family a parcel of land…This had very good results for it made all hands very industrious…”

You can see what happened. When people could keep what they produced, they became more industrious.

The Economic Lesson

Equality or efficiency was a dilemma in 1623 and remains a dilemma today. The basic question involves how much of what we produce should we keep?

Maybe, especially on Thanksgiving, we can say it all takes us back to the size of the pie.

An Economic Question: At what level, from 10% to 60% of your income, do you believe that taxation would affect your ambition and incentive to innovate?

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