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The Signalling Power of Sanctions in Collective Action Problems

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  • Joel van der Weele
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    Abstract

    We present a model of collective action in a heterogenous population of egoists and conditional cooperators. Each player is uncertain about the cooperative inclinations of the other player. A government or principal who has information about the distribution of types may introduce sanctions for defection. We study the impact of such sanctions through the e¤ect on the beliefs of the players about the distribution of types they are facing. It is shown that in equilibrium sanctions can crowd out trust between agents by sending a signal that there are many egoists around. This can lead the government to set low sanctions to induce trust and 'crowd in' cooperation. In cases where conditional cooperation is an important factor in collective action, as is the case in tax compliance, the model provides a rationale for the low observed sanctions in the real world.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2007/10.

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    Date of creation: 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2007/10

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    Keywords: Collective action; trust; incentives; crowding out; conditional cooperation;

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    1. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, . "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior - Testing ‘Conditional Cooperation’ in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 162, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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    8. Hedström, Peter & Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Åberg, Yvonne, 2003. "Social interactions and unemployment," Working Paper Series 2003:15, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    9. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
    10. Dirk Sliwka, 2007. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 999-1012, June.
    11. Juan-Camilo Cardenas & John Stranlund & Cleve Willis, 2000. "Local environmental control and institutional crowding-out," Artefactual Field Experiments 00028, The Field Experiments Website.
    12. Frey, Bruno S. & Torgler, Benno, 2006. "Tax Morale and Conditional Cooperation," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt3rd3f982, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    13. Sheffrin, S.M. & Triest, R.K., 1991. "Can Brute Deterrence Backfire? Perceptions and Attitudes in Taxpayer Compliance," Papers 373, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
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