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Words Substitute Fists – Justifying Punishment in a Public Good Experiment

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  • Christoph Engel

    ()
    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

  • Lilia Zhurakhovska

    ()
    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

Abstract

Punishees regularly ask for justification. But is justification also effective? To answer this question under controlled conditions, we have conducted a public goods experiment with central punishment. The authority is neutral – she does not benefit from contributions to the public good. Punishment is costly. Along with the punishment decisions the authority writes justifications for her decisions. In the Baseline, authorities are requested to justify punishment decisions, but the reasons are kept confidential. In the Private treatment, the addressee is only informed about the justification of the authority’s decision affecting herself, not affecting others. In the Public treatment, all reasons are made public. Whenever reasons are communicated, there is less monetary punishment. Authorities partly substitute words for action. Contributions decay in later periods if the justification is only communicated to the addressee. In the remaining two treatments, contributions stabilize at a high level.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2013_16.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
Date of revision: Jan 2014
Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2013_16

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Keywords: experiment; Public Good; justification; authority; central intervention;

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