Psychologists like to invent games that pit people’s emotional, altruistic nature against their rational, egocentric nature. This is how one of those games works. Two people who don’t know each other are placed in a room. One of the players is given $10 and told he can keep it or share it with the other player. If he decides to share it, he can divide it any way he chooses. He can split it 5 and 5, or 6 and 4, or even 9 and 1.

Psychologists like to invent games that pit people’s emotional, altruistic nature against their rational, egocentric nature.  This is how one of those games works.  Two people who don’t know each other are placed in a room.  One of the players is given $10 and told he can keep it or share it with the other player.  If he decides to share it, he can divide it any way he chooses.  He can split it 5 and 5, or 6 and 4, or even 9 and 1.  
But here’s the kicker.  The second player has the right to accept or reject the deal.  If he accepts it, they both take their money and go home.  If he rejects it, both players must return all the money and each goes home with nothing.  The game pits our rational desire for self gain against our emotional sense of justice.
Now obviously, if the first player decides to split the money $5 and $5, everyone would consider that fair and there is a nearly 100% chance the second player will accept the deal.  Equally obviously, if the first player decides to keep all the money, and give his opponent nothing, there is a nearly 100% chance the opponent will reject the split and they will both go home empty handed.
The interesting part is what happens in the middle.  If you were player two, would you accept a $6 - $4 split?  A $7 - $3 split? A $9 - $1 split?  Logic and pecuniary self interest would say you should accept any of these.  After all, if player one offers you $1 while he pockets $9, you are still $1 ahead of where you were before the game began, or where you will be if you reject the deal.   Rational self interest dictates that you should take the $9 - $1 split, but relatively few people in that situation do.
Most people are so outraged at a 9 - 1 split that they will reject the deal.  It is worth losing a dollar to insure their greedy opponent doesn’t get away with $9 in ill-gotten gains.  It is a simple matter of fairness and justice.
Congress has just come up with a similar game, but with higher stakes.  It works like this.  A rich man and a poor man are put into a room.  The rich man is given a $9,000 tax reduction and the poor man is given a $1,000 tax reduction.  Will the two men be happy?  The rich man will be for sure.  The Republicans are betting the poor man will too, and the Democrats are betting that he won’t.
Republicans are betting the poor man will be so happy with his $1,000 that he won’t begrudge his rich neighbor getting $9,000.  And Democrats are betting that the poor man would have been willing to give up the $1,000 knowing that the government would then have had $10,000 available for improvements in schools, or infrastructure, or a stronger military, or a reduced debt for his children to have to pay off someday.
Which party will be right?  Is our pecuniary sense of self interest stronger than our emotional sense of fairness?  Is our personal well-being more important than the well-being of our collective community?  We will find out in the 2018 mid-term elections.

James W. Rhoades writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.