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Self-Organization for Collective Action: An Experimental Study of Voting on Formal, Informal, and No Sanction Regimes

Entrusting the power to punish to a central authority is a hallmark of civilization. We study a collective action dilemma in which self-interest should produce a sub-optimal outcome absent sanctions for non-cooperation. We then test experimentally whether subjects make the theoretically optimal choice of a formal sanction scheme that costs less than the surplus it makes possible, or instead opt for the use of informal sanctions or no sanctions. Most groups adopt formal sanctions when they are of deterrent magnitude and cost a small fraction (10%) of the potential surplus. Contrary to the standard theoretical prediction, however, most groups choose informal sanctions when formal sanctions are more costly (40% of the surplus). Being adopted by voting appears to enhance the efficiency of both informal sanctions and non-deterrent formal sanctions.

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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011-4.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2011-4
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Kenju Kamei & Louis Putterman & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2011. "State or Nature? Formal vs. Informal Sanctioning in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Discussion Papers 11-05, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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  3. Nikos Nikiforakis & Hans-Theo Normann, 2008. "A comparative statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 358-369, December.
  4. 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.
  5. Pedro Dal Bo & Andrew Foster & Louis Putterman, 2007. "Institutions and Behavior: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Democracy," Working Papers 2007-9, Brown University, Department of Economics.
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  7. Thöni, Christian & Tyran, Jean-Robert & Wengström, Erik, 2012. "Microfoundations of social capital," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(7-8), pages 635-643.
  8. Laurent Denant-Boemont & David Masclet & Charles Noussair, 2007. "Punishment, counterpunishment and sanction enforcement in a social dilemma experiment," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 145-167, October.
  9. Martin Sefton & Robert S. Shupp & James Walker, 2005. "The Effect of Rewards and Sanctions in Provision of Public Goods," Working Papers 200504, Ball State University, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2005.
  10. Umut Ones & Louis Putterman, 2004. "The Ecology of Collective Action: A Public Goods and Sanctions Experiment with Controlled Group Formation," Working Papers 2004-01, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  11. Jennifer Zelmer, 2003. "Linear Public Goods Experiments: A Meta-Analysis," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 299-310, November.
  12. Nikiforakis, Nikos, 2008. "Punishment and counter-punishment in public good games: Can we really govern ourselves," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 91-112, February.
  13. Ertan, Arhan & Page, Talbot & Putterman, Louis, 2009. "Who to punish? Individual decisions and majority rule in mitigating the free rider problem," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 495-511, July.
  14. Louis Putterman & Jean-Robert Tyran & Kenju Kamei, 2010. "Public Goods and Voting on Formal Sanction Schemes: An Experiment," Working Papers 2010-1, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  15. Bochet, Olivier & Page, Talbot & Putterman, Louis, 2006. "Communication and punishment in voluntary contribution experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 11-26, May.
  16. Elinor Ostrom, 2010. "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 641-72, June.
  17. Haigner, Stefan & Kocher, Martin & Sutter, Matthias, 2006. "Choosing the Stick or the Carrot? Endogenous Institutional Choice in Social Dilemma Situations," CEPR Discussion Papers 5497, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Kreps, David M. & Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Rational cooperation in the finitely repeated prisoners' dilemma," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 245-252, August.
  19. Ananish Chaudhuri, 2011. "Sustaining cooperation in laboratory public goods experiments: a selective survey of the literature," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 47-83, March.
  20. Rockenbach, Bettina & Wolff, Irenaeus, 2009. "Institution design in social dilemmas: How to design if you must?," MPRA Paper 16922, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  21. Nikos Nikiforakis, 2010. "Experimental Economics," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 43(3), pages 337-345.
  22. Anabela Botelho & Glenn W. Harrison & Lígia Costa Pinto & Elisabet E. Rutstrom, 2005. "Social norms and social choice," NIMA Working Papers 30, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho.
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