Discussions of economic revolution and collective ownership are often frought with claims about ‘selfishness’. But this notion is not often defined in much detail. I think we can learn something about it by looking at ‘the ultimatum game’, an experimental set-up that psychologists have used (also by independent common-sense, which psychologists also use, though to a debatable extent).
The set-up is simple. You and I are given a tenner. I decide on a way to split it between us, and you either accept, and take what I offer you, or reject, in which case we both get nothing.
If we both desperately wanted money, I would give you 5p and take all the rest for myself, and you would accept that. But that’s not what happens. By and large, I propose something relatively even, most commonly 50/50, and you either accept if it’s even enough, or reject if it’s substantially unequal – even though this means you choose nothing over something.