Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Warm glow

May Day in Europe (May 1) is now Labor Day -- not to be confused with U.S. style Labor Days, which are like any other 3-day weekend in America but with the addition of some newspaper editorials and political speeches that allude to the historical contributions of the labor movement and working men and women, etc.

We are in Barcelona, the weather is good, the tourists are everywhere and a moderate-sized parade made its way down Gran Via de les Cortes Catalanes and Via Laietana and then seemed to disperse. There were hammer-and-sickle red flags, Catalonian flags, labor union flags, Cuban flags, Mexican Flags and banners espousing immigration to the U.S.

The shoppers and tourists making their way through all this made for a humorous set of images. Nevertheless, the loudspeakers, drums, and noisemakers probably got the class-warfare juices flowing for some.

Julio Videras and Ann Owen write about the "warm glow" that people get when they participate in high-minded behaviors, including recycling and making contributions to environmental causes. The paper is worth reading.

It is always sad when some economics students learn about pure public goods analysis and infer that the model describes how everyone acts -- and that it prescribes that this is how people should act. Not exactly.