More than our fair share

Lynne McTaggart

Last week, at his party’s annual conference, British prime minister David Cameron made as the subject of his speech a return to ‘fairness’ in society when announcing some painful fall-out as a result of the new government’s drive to reduce the country’s enormous budget deficit.  Child benefits for the better off were to be axed, and welfare benefits were to be curbed for those fit to work.  Since that time, commentators have been busy attempting to define what exactly is fair.
 “Fairness is about reciprocity and contribution,” wrote a blog by the Fabian Society last Wednesday.  “The ’something for something’ conception of fairness, which the government seeks to appeal to with its welfare reforms, also includes the idea that those who do put in to the common pot should get something back”.
 I would add that I don’t think that human beings require a definition of fairness.  The latest scientific evidence shows that fairness is hard-wired within us, and in fact, a sense of fairness matters more to us than self-interest.
 A new study recently published by Nature magazine demonstrated that portions of our brains linked to reward respond most to situations where people are treated equally, even if fairness comes at a personal cost.
 A fair bonus
In the study, psychologists from Rutgers University handed a pair of young men $30 apiece and then randomly selected one of each pair to receive an extra $50. 
 The researchers then scanned each young man using a functional MRI, which measures brain activity in real time, while asking how they felt — first if the bonus went to them, and then how it would feel to have it go to his partner.
 In every instance, areas of the brain associated with reward lit up in the partner when asked to think about his feelings about getting the extra money, but they also lit up when he thought of his partner getting it.
 The researchers who carried out the study believe this is further evidence that fairness has a biological basis, particularly, as co-author Elizabeth Tricomi noted, “Fairness helps us to work together, which can benefit everyone.”
People are so resistant to inequity that they are willing to give up their own material pay-off if that will bring about a more equitable outcome for all. In our hearts we’re okay with a smaller piece of cake so long as we know it’s going to mean that everybody else gets a slice.
Fair employers
Swiss economist Ernst Fehr himself discovered such a natural impulse in human beings when investigating how groups of people behave when securing employment contracts.  In one of his studies, he gathered together a group of college students interested in making a little extra money and divided them into a group of ‘employers,’ with the larger share of the group ‘the employees’. 
He arranged that the employers would make a contract with their employees to provide a certain amount of effort, for which they’d be paid a set amount.  However, the employees would be paid their contracted amount, no matter how much effort they put in, so the employee wouldn’t suffer any penalty if he didn’t abide by his contract.
Furthermore, each employee was only contracted to play the game once with a given employer, and all identities were concealed, so there would be no stigma attached if the employee reneged on his deal. 
If either party were entirely self-interested, the employers would be expected to offer the minimum wage, and employees would only respond with minimal effort.
In practice, this almost never occurred.  Both parties were usually generous, and the more generous the employer, the greater the employee’s effort. In fact, the employers mostly assumed that their employees would work hard and so were bounteous in their wage offers.  Nevertheless, only 26 per cent of the employees delivered the full effort they promised. 
More for more effort
So in the next round of games, the employers were allowed to respond to their employees’ effort by paying more for higher effort.  In this case, employers also showed an exquisite sense of fairness.  More than two-thirds of the time, they rewarded employees who did more than they were contracted for, and nearly half gave rewards to their workers simply for fulfilling the contract.  Nevertheless, when contracts were not fulfilled, this time two-thirds of the employers meted out punishment.
On the employee’s side, with a reward for effort now in place, most did more than their fair share. Underachievement on contracts fell from 83 per cent to 26 per cent, and overfillment of contracts rose tenfold.  Most significantly, allowing the bosses to reward or punish their workers according to effort increased the ultimate payoff to both bosses and workers by an average of 40 per cent.  This study reinforces the idea that we have developed a strong internalized sense of fairness and responding in kind, even when there is no threat of a drop in income from behaving selfishly.
Part of our trouble today is the fact that fairness is so well embedded in us that we know, deep in our bones, how deeply unfair the society is that we have created – to each and every one of us. When life is fair, all of us do more than our fair share.

Facebook Comments

We embed Facebook Comments plugin to allow you to leave comment at our website using your Facebook account. This plugin may collect your IP address, your web browser User Agent, store and retrieve cookies on your browser, embed additional tracking, and monitor your interaction with the commenting interface, including correlating your Facebook account with whatever action you take within the interface (such as “liking” someone’s comment, replying to other comments), if you are logged into Facebook. For more information about how this data may be used, please see Facebook’s data privacy policy:

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

27 comments on “More than our fair share”

  1. It is this inbred sense of fairness that makes the Free Enterprise System [Capitalism] work. We subvert this sense of fairness when the welfare system becomes dominant and people's sense of entitlement buries their sense of fairness so deep it is forgotten.

  2. I have always been an advocate for giving nothing away. Welfare, social security, disability - there is something for everyone to do no matter who they are. It can be as simple as reading a book to children in a class or sweeping a sidewalk or painting a local government building, pulling weeds from a community park or lending a helping hand to someone in need - I could go on forever on that front. Giving makes us feel good. Taking without giving back or contributing makes us feel bad. I don't need an MRI machine to tell anyone that. It is the reason so many are so unhappy. They are taking, not giving back and feeling really bad!

  3. Unfortunately the Free Enterprise system does not work fairly, it is a stacked deck!
    I am from the UK and I know very well that the biggest complaint from most people there, is the fact that people who have never paid one cent into the system often become gross beneficaries. From their point of view, David Cameron's statement recognises a long standing injustice in the system.
    It is certainly true that there are people who feel 'entitled'. I have heard people openly ask the question "Why should I work when I can get as much in State benefits?" The problem is as always, wherever government, either local or central is involved, there are too damn many chiefs and not enough indians! Too much bureaucracy and not enough people overseeing the system! This has allowed the loss of billions of dollars in the USA in Medicare fraud.
    What Lynne is stating here is, I am sure, very true for the vast majority of people living on the planet. The people who do not subscribe to this philosophy however, are often the rich and powerful who have the most opportunity to subvert the system, which they often do! If this were not the case, would the tent cities springing up across the USA exist? One day Fairness will be a reality, because everybody will realise that everything that exists, including people, are an integral part of the whole. That day is not yet here, but hopefully the change will come if we all keep working for it. Lynne, you have done a great deal in providing the IE website, which has brought so many altruistic people together, who now have a central network to make this effort from.

  4. who judges the fairness judges? remember the old parable the grasshopper and the ants? The moral was that while the ants worked and gathered seeds, all the grasshopper did was fiddle? And so he deserved to starve to death that Winter. But in their kindness the ants took him in and saved his worthless life.
    Looking at that story another way, the Grasshopper's music, lifted the hearts and minds of the ants so they could work faster with joy and determination and his music made the long Winter pass quickly. Too often in Western society when "contribution" decisions are made art and music are the first to go... in favor of "real work"
    something to ponder

  5. No... not a very astute awareness of the free enterprise system. It is about reciprocity. How can you conclude this when the 'welfare system' was Wall Street / banking both UK & US preying on people from the middle to lower income levels who actually do most of the buying, paying, working and contribution to global economy. Shut down that (which is what cutting welfare means -too) and you have a stunning stagnation ... one that will (and perhaps should) shut down government / industry / military. I agree with Ms. McT's observation....

  6. must admit that I was somewhat concerned by what Lynne was expressing when she referred to the Fabian Society. George Orwell, was originally a member, until he defected because of a conflict with it’s real ultimate goals, shortly before his death (which is also WHY he wrote and published his famous books “1984” & “Animal Farm”, to expose the ultimate agenda of this group)., He discovered that this organization, which was actually first started in 1884 by Baron Rothschild (the head of one of the 13 most powerful banking family dynasties & the power elite) as an organization which on the surface APPEARED or SEEMED to be for "ultralistic "social change', but was really being used to promote a questionable agenda that instead was promoting the agenda of these power elite who have controlled the world, similar to such other "power elite" organizations & groups, that initially appear to have so-called "altruistic" goals. And, in fact, such other organizations, which we now know were also created for more world control and the eliminating of our Constitutional Sovereignty and freedom, and in some cases, in mine and other researcher’s opinions, as really evil and opposite to everything that we Light Workers, and true humanitarians embrase and stand for. Just a few examples: Bohemian Club, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, Builderbergs, Club of Rome, and last but not least, the Skull and Bones Society (also known as “the Order”)
    My real point is, that instead of using a quote from an organization who really has “dubious or questionable’ goals and agendas, there are plenty of other truly noble and wonderful humanitarian organizations who REALLY DO HAVE HUMANITIES BEST INTERESTS AT HEART, AS VERSES ONE WHO DOES NOT--BUT ONLY APPEARS ON THE SURFACE TO HAVE GOALS THAT ARE IN SOMEWAY HARMONIOUS WITH OUR HIGHEST IDEALS. But when one “scratches the surface” they discover--just as Goerge Orwell did--despite the denial of such organizations, that their real goal is world domination and spreading an agenda that is, as stated totally contradictory to what I feel is truly one of the most inspired documents of all time, that of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. As well as the Geneva Convention and other truly positive and inspired documents that really do uplift and expand our freedoms--as well as our Consciousness to Higher Levels of Truth, justice and ACCOUNTABILITY. These qualities are so important & necessary these days to make sure that we are aligned with those organizations and individuals who truly do embody the ideals and goals that really do support humanities best interests. We must be both “positive” as well as Discerning & use “good ‘ol fashion” COGNITIVE DEDUCTIVE REASONING in our efforts so that in a truly “functional” verses, dysfunctional way, our efforts and actions, in a balanced way, only embody our best INTENTIONS as well as the best outcome for all concerned.

  7. I wonder if different societies would have different results? That is to say, a socialist vs a capitalist society. My guess is that there would be a difference as our environment does change us deep down in our DNA.

  8. Life is inherently not fair, since all of us have different abilities, challenges, and experiences to have in our physical incarnation. The problem with government mandating some form of "fairness" is that it is not voluntary, so its basic precept is immoral, just as taxation is ALWAYS immoral, since it involves theft. Elites have long thought they know what is best for others and try and co-opt the system to deliver this agenda. It always fails (NO socialist system has ever worked!). Most people do not understand true free market economics, since we have no free markets. How can we when the very basis of capitalism - capital - is controlled by the international banksters of the Rothschild clan (the Federal Reserve here in the USA). It is the most evil, corrupt institution ever and the Rothschilds are behind the Bank of England, the Reichstag (Bank of Germany), Bank of Italy, etc. We all feel good when we contribute to others . . . but it must be voluntary. No one wants anyone else telling them what to do or how to lead their lives - and this is especially true for the State, which is the most incompetent, immoral, and inefficient institution we have. What prosperity the world has enjoyed has come from capitalism (flawed as it operates today), and not from all these collectivists visions (nightmares!!) proposed by folks like the Fabian Socialists, the Progressives here in the USA, and other totalitarians. As we recognize and connect with our true Source Energy, we will naturally operate in ways that promote love, peace, and LIBERTY for all - not those designated by some State elites!

  9. Fairness is another word for balance and balance is the thing that is inherent in our make-up. We fear imbalance and thrive in a balanced envoronment.
    I agree with Lynne - this is fundamental to our nature as humans and is ever being adjusted so that balance wins. When a draconian move to re-adjust the balance happens - such as in the Doomsday Book which was a cold way of dispossessing the smaller holder and awarding excesses to the richer citizens - that is when we people are most alert and participate in the discussions that arise. This even happens within the cold corporates because it is the first thing that children in families talk about.
    Even the elites are driven by the same laws and they do not want to be seen as unfair because that causes a lot of trouble for them.
    The more that the common people hold the elite to fairness and balance, the more fairness happens. This is because there are SO many more of us than there are of the elite. The elite fear contention and revolts so it is important for the people to hold the governing bodies to the law and thus to be ever vigilant of our freedom.
    Jackie Mackay

  10. Let's see the Royal family is worth about 12 billion dollars. That's 12 thousand million dollars. How about we start there and not with the tax payers.

  11. Lynne, thanks for a great article.
    To my fellow commenters, I agree that the welfare system had gone way beyond what was 'healthy' although I believe that all these ridiculous imbalances have been done purposely.
    I don't see the bankers feeling bad and they are taking without giving back, and have done so for hundreds of years. Maybe their inborn sense of fairness and doing what is right has been bred out of them.
    I also think it is our 'inbred sense of fairness' that Lynne talks about that now makes us SO angry with our government. How is it fair - or right - to try to force the population to pay back the trillions that the bankers have stolen, and some of which is syphoned off into the pockets of the politicians. Cameron has a lot of hypocrisy.

  12. I will extend violet light at the indicated time. I give my love and my thanks. When a linked group work together, we all receive. Best Wishes. Peace be within each and every one of us.

  13. For those who believe in evolution...where is the origin of this fairness, what animal did it come from..

  14. Lynne,
    What an eclectic group of comments!
    Regarding fairness being part of our DNA, as you and one of the commenter’s mentioned, I believe that a sense of fairness is not driven by DNA, but is created by our societal experience.
    I recall your post about the aboriginal tribesman who was asked how many birds were sitting on a wire, and how by giving a fish away he was creating food in his future.
    These perceptions of ‘fairness’ were completely different than what a western society deems as ‘fair’.
    Fairness can also change over time and/or within certain societies…look at Hitler.
    Whether it’s fair to categorize who deserves monetary compensation in a given society will also depend largely on the popular vote.
    What is considered fair in Australia or the UK might not be considered fair in America. What is considered fair in Korea and China can be judged “appalling” by western societies.
    I think fairness, like time itself, is relative to who you are and where you are in the universe.
    Write On!

    Love Is The Foundation of the Soul
    The Soul is the Inspiration of the Mind
    The Mind is the Motivation of the Heart
    The Heart is the Pulsation of the Body
    The Body is a Manifestation of Universal Love;
    a Revelation of the Universal Mind
    LOVE Knows No Religion. LOVE Knows No Sex
    GOD Is of No Religion. GOD Is of No Sex
    Sexual behavior involving humans and other primates is a momentary and emotional reaction of a strictly physical nature. The gravest human error in judgment is to believe that sexual behavior originates from Love or that Love is a consequence of such behavior.
    There is no difficulty that enough Love will not conquer.
    No disease that enough Love will not heal.
    No door that enough Love will not open.
    No gulf that enough Love will not bridge.
    No wall that enough Love will not throw down.
    No sin that enough Love will not redeem.
    It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble.
    How hopeless the outlook.
    How muddled the tangle.
    How great the mistake.
    A sufficient realization of Love will dissolve it all….if only you could Love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world. (Emmet Fox) djsekin 043007

  16. Once again great blog Lynne, thanks! For me the point of this article seems to revolve around the disparity between the system and the individual. The reason why we see so little manifestation of this hard wired fairness in individual is that it is smothered by the intention inherent in the system. The unfairness that is so prevalent in our world can only be the product systematic dehumanisation. Our reconnecting with love and the source is the only remedy for this malady.

  17. The writers are right. Fairness is a result of an individual being in touch with that love that is his nature.
    One of the confusing things in these discussions is reflected in the title of Lynne's blog. The pie idea is faulty. If wealth were in some way limited it would make sense but wealth is unlimited. More wealth is being created all the time - otherwise we would all be scrabbling over the same shells or wampum or animal pelts we were when the idea of money came into being.
    Our beliefs and thoughts about wealth and money determine what we have, not some evil person or persons "out there".
    When a person is in touch with the love and unlimitedness they are they know that everyone else is also unlimited and are generous in thought and deed. The generosity one experiences from the universe is just a reflection of our own.
    A wise person once said "You people are like someone standing before the fireplace and saying 'give me heat and I'll give you wood'" It is only out of a willingness to examine our own greed, envy and selfishness that we come to see what the true nature of this problem is.

  18. Fairness is the natural consequence of treating all sentient beings with loving kindness and compassion treating all sentient beings as you would like to be treated. May all beings be freed from suffering. May all beings be freed from fear.

  19. Is it fair that Bankers have billions and avoid paying taxes. Is it fair that people make money out of this country avoid tax by living in a tax haven.
    The Welfare State came because of the abject poverty suffered by millions in the UK. Unfortunately Thatcher changed Britain into a ME ME society. I don't mind paying my taxes and national insurance to help the less well off. Universal benefits are ok with me. If a wealthy person gets these benefits then all we do is tax them higher. Simple.
    Let's not forget that the BANKERS started all this. Don't attack the poor.

  20. I am skeptical when universities do these studies because I know for a fact, that there are people in society who's brains are not wired for fairness. Too many in fact.
    When these people see a homeless person they feel very confident in saying, "so what?" where others would pull out $5 and hand it to them because they actually feel something and have empathy for them.
    A lot of the US politicians are in that "so what?" category as well. If they had brains wired for "fairness" then our country would not be in this nightmare right now.
    Many of our Congressmen/women are millionaires and get salaries above what most American's earn, a great healthcare pkg, and yet they make deals behind closed doors for themselves over tax payers, obtain money from lobbyist, and they are always looking to add money to their campaign coffers, while watching Americans stand in food banks and loose their homes thru foreclosure but it doesn't seem to bother them at all; that what they have done or not done in Congress caused all of this to happen while on their watch.
    Fairness is not operating in the halls of the US Congress that is for sure.

  21. Dear all,
    Wonderful comments, as always this week. Kate, you make an interesting comment. I think there is a vast divide between what we are programmed to do and what we've programmed ourselves to do.
    That's certainly the case with our modern Western society. Congress cheats and takes more than their fair share because taking for yours and yours alone is now the norm.
    We act against our natural instinct for fairness at our great cost.

  22. A same sample congress or senate person who might have been standing at the end of the line where God was passing out fairness quotient (fq) might be among the loudest in proclaiming the "unfairness" of a political opponent's attack ads, or in castigating the "unfairness" of those darn Tibetain monks for having the audacity to promote ego softening and compassionate tendancies. "There ought to be a Law"!!

  23. Those in power who talk of fairness'
    do so, to steal the initiative away from
    those they have treated unfairly.


Why wait any longer when you’ve already been waiting your entire life?

Sign up and receive FREE GIFTS including The Power of Eight® handbook and a special video from Lynne! 

Top usercarttagbubblemagnifiercrosschevron-down