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Responsibility-sensitive fair compensation in different cultures

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Recently many philosophers and social choice theorists have questioned traditional welfare egalitarianism by introducing a notion of responsibility. They propose to distinguish between two sets of individual characteristics: those for which individuals are to be kept responsible and those for which they can be compensated. This approach raises the related questions of where to draw the line between those two sets of characteristics and how to operationalise the notion of 'responsibility-sensitive fair compensation'. The answers to these questions may depend on the cultural context. We present some empirical results from questionnaire studies in Belgium, Burkina Faso and Indonesia. The notion of control seems to play an important role in determining the variables for which individuals are to be held responsible. The strong notion of 'full compensation' is clearly rejected in favour of more conservative distribution rules. Moreover, a large fraction of the respondents take the non-liberal position that the talented should be punished if they do not use their talents in a productive way. We find some intercultural differences. Belgian students are more in favour of redistribution. Indonesian students are the most conservative. While the Pareto principle is decisively rejected in Burkina Faso and Belgium, it is accepted by a majority of the Indonesian sample.

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