Dr. Harbaugh, one of the [researchers], said the results did not resolve the debate over whether to help the needy with public programs or private charity. “There’s something for both sides here,” he said. “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.”Harbaugh pinpoints the crux of the debate. It is about about donors' and taxpayers' emotions, not about solving the problems of the poor.
June 19, 2007
The pleasure of paying taxes
Researchers scanned the brains of subjects to map their neural reactions to getting monetary presents, donating to a charity that gives food to the poor, and being forced to pay to the same charity. John Tierney in The New York Times reports that they found that donations and, to a lesser extent, taxes activate the pleasure areas of the brain. This may be one reason people enjoy voting for political candidates that promise to give taxpayers' money to the poor.