Play the game.
You and a stranger are paired in a class. You will never see each other again. The leader gives you $1,000. You get to keep some of the money if you can come to an agreement with your partner on how it is to be divided. You can make only one offer; your partner makes only one response: “deal” or “no deal.” If the answer is “no deal”, neither of you gets any money.
You write your offer on a piece of paper. How much do you offer?
(pause while you decide)
What was your number? How do you think your partner responded?
Robert Reich uses this game in his “Wealth and Poverty” class. He says you’d think a partner would say “deal” even if she were offered as little as $1. After all, one dollar is better than nothing. What he’s discovered is that most people say “no deal” to any offer under $250.
Because it doesn’t feel fair and we are sensitive to perceived unfairness. Losers are willing to sacrifice some gain in order to prevent winners from walking away with far more.
Reich uses the game to draw conclusions about the larger society. Americans are waking up to the fact that CEOs make 300 times as much as workers and tax cuts benefit the rich. Last year, they saw top hedge fund managers bring home a billion dollars, while wage earners barely held on. Ninety-five percent of the gains from our economy’s growth since 2009 went to the top 1%.
Money equals power and the game feels rigged.