Sunday, July 06, 2008

Neuroscience: News flash, sort of ... people would rather give to charity than pay taxes

In Reason on Line, science correspondent Ronald Bailey asks, "Does the Invisible Hand Need a Helping Hand? " (June 24, 2008). He advises,
... neuro-economics is also beginning to delve deeper into how we respond to various institutions. In one experiment done by Oregon University researchers, MRIs scanned the brains of students as they chose to give—or were required to give—some portion of $100 to a food bank. The first was a charitable act and the second analogous to a tax. In both cases, their reward centers "lit up," but much less so under the tax condition. As Oregon economist William Harbaugh told the New York Times, "We're showing that paying taxes does produce a neural reward. But we're showing that the neural reward is even higher when you have voluntary giving."
The next big discovery: People would rather pay taxes than go to jail.