, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 158-175
Date: 05 Aug 2011

Self-interest and fairness: self-serving choices of justice principles

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We introduce non-enforceable property rights over a bargaining surplus in a dictator game with production, where the agent’s effort is differentially rewarded and subsequently determines the size of the surplus. Using experimental data, we elicit individual preferences over the egalitarian, accountability and libertarian principles and provide evidence to support the inability of these justice principles to individually account for the observed behavior. We show that the justice principle that can be used to explain dictators’ choices depends on whether dictators are paid more or less than recipients for their effort. Our findings suggest that dictators do employ justice principles in self-serving ways and choose in each context the justice principle that maximizes their financial payoffs.

An earlier version of this paper was circulated as working paper (WP-AD 2010-13) under the title “Self-interest and justice principles”.