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State or Nature? Formal vs. Informal Sanctioning in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods

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The sanctioning of norm-violating behavior by an effective formal authority is an efficient solution for social dilemmas. It is in the self-interest of voters and is often favorably contrasted with letting citizens take punishment into their own hands. Allowing informal sanctions, by contrast, not only comes with a danger that punishments will be misapplied, but also should have no efficiency benefit under standard assumptions of self-interested agents. We experimentally investigate the relative effectiveness of formal vs. informal sanctions in the voluntary provision of public goods. Unsurprisingly, we find that effective formal sanctions are popular and efficient when they are free to impose. Surprisingly, we find that informal sanctions are often more popular and more efficient when effective formal sanctions entail a modest cost. The reason is that informal sanctions achieve more efficient outcomes than theory predicts, especially when the mechanism is chosen by voting.

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Paper provided by University of Vienna, Department of Economics in its series Vienna Economics Papers with number 1104.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Handle: RePEc:vie:viennp:1104

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Web page: http://www.univie.ac.at/vwl

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  1. Talbot Page & Louis Putterman & Bulent Unel, 2005. "Voluntary Association in Public Goods Experiments: Reciprocity, Mimicry and Efficiency," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 1032-1053, October.
  2. Louis Puttermann & Jean-Robert Tyran & Kenju Kamei, 2010. "Public Goods and Voting on Formal Sanction Schemes: An Experiment," NRN working papers 2010-20, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
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  4. Martin Sefton & Robert Shupp & James M. Walker, 2006. "The Effect of Rewards and Sanctions in Provision of Public Goods," Caepr Working Papers 2006-005, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington, revised Aug 2006.
  5. Thomas Markussen & Louis Putterman & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2011. "Self-Organization for Collective Action: An Experimental Study of Voting on Formal, Informal, and No Sanction Regimes," Working Papers 2011-4, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  6. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Monetary and non Monetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," Post-Print halshs-00175251, HAL.
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  15. Sebastian Kube & Christian Traxler, 2011. "The Interaction of Legal and Social Norm Enforcement," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 13(5), pages 639-660, October.
  16. David Masclet & Laurent Denant-Boèmont & Charles Noussair, 2006. "Punishment, Counterpunishment and Sanction Enforcement in a Social Dilemma Experiment," Working Papers halshs-00009664, HAL.
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Cited by:
  1. Kamei, Kenju, 2014. "Promoting Competition or Helping Less-Endowed? An Experiment on Collective Institutional Choices under Intra-Group Inequality," MPRA Paper 56774, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Thomas Markussen & Louis Putterman & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2011. "Self-Organization for Collective Action: An Experimental Study of Voting on Formal, Informal, and No Sanction Regimes," Discussion Papers 11-04, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  3. Boyu Zhang & Cong Li & Hannelore Silva & Peter Bednarik & Karl Sigmund, 2014. "The evolution of sanctioning institutions: an experimental approach to the social contract," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 285-303, June.
  4. Kamei, Kenju, 2012. "From locality to continent: A comment on the generalization of an experimental study," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 207-210.

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