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A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation

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  • Ernst Fehr
  • Klaus M. Schmidt

Abstract

There is strong evidence that people exploit their bargaining power in competitive markets but not in bilateral bargaining situations. There is also strong evidence that people exploit free-riding opportunities in voluntary cooperation games. Yet, when they are given the opportunity to punish free riders, stable cooperation is maintained, although punishment is costly for those who punish. This paper asks whether there is a simple common principle that can explain this puzzling evidence. We show that if some people care about equity the puzzles can be resolved. It turns out that the economic environment determines whether the fair types or the selfish types dominate equilibrium behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:3:p:817-868.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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