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Experiment on the Demand for Encompassment

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  • Daniel Klein

    ()
    (Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Xiaofei (Sophia) Pan

    ()
    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Daniel Houser

    ()
    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Gonzalo Schwartz

    ()
    (Department of Economics, George Mason University)

Abstract

The idea of political community is appealing on a gut-level. Hayek suggested that certain genes and instincts still dispose us toward the ethos and mentality of the hunter-gatherer band, and that modern forms of political collectivism have, in part, been atavistic reassertions of such tendencies. Picking up on Hayek, Klein (2005) has suggested a combination of yearnings: 1) a yearning for coordinated sentiment (like Smithian sympathy); and 2) a yearning that the sentiment encompass the whole group. This paper reports on an experiment designed to explore the demand for encompassment by having subjects sing together. In each trial, one person in the room was designated not to sing unless every one of the others in the room had made a payment sufficient so as to have that person sing. Subjects chose to sacrifice money to achieve encompassment 47.4 percent of the time, with 59.6 percent of the subjects doing so in at least one trial. An exit questionnaire showed that subjects' chief reason for making such a sacrifice was a belief that the singing would be more enjoyable if it encompassed the whole group, and reported enjoyment is significantly higher with encompassment. We discuss the experiment as a parable for a penchant toward political collectivism.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1020.

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Length: 25
Date of creation: Feb 2011
Date of revision: Mar 2011
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1020

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Keywords: Encompassment; political psychology; Hayek; the people's romance;

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  1. Klein, Daniel, 2004. "The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (as much as they do)," Ratio Working Papers 31, The Ratio Institute, revised 11 May 2005.
  2. Paul H. Rubin, 2003. "Folk Economics," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 157-171, July.
  3. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 1991. "Hayek's Theory of Cultural Evolution: An Evaluation in the Light of Vanberg's Critique," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(01), pages 67-82, April.
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