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The Logic of Collective Action Revisited

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  • Joachim Weimann
  • Jeannette Brosig-Koch
  • Timo Heinrich
  • Heike Hennig-Schmidt
  • Claudia Keser

Abstract

Since Mancur Olson’s “Logic of collective action” it is common conviction in social sciences that in large groups the prospects of a successful organization of collective actions are rather bad. Following Olson’s logic, the impact of an individual’s costly contribution becomes smaller if the group gets larger and, consequently, the incentive to cooperate decreases with group size. Conducting a series of laboratory experiments with large groups of up to 100 subjects, we demonstrate that Olson’s logic does not generally account for observed behavior. Large groups in which the impact of an individual contribution is almost negligible are still able to provide a public good in the same way as small groups in which the impact of an individual contribution is much higher. Nevertheless, we find that small variations of the MPCR in large groups have a strong effect on contributions. We develop a hypothesis concerning the interplay of MPCR and group size, which is based on the assumption that the salience of the advantages of mutual cooperation plays a decisive role. This hypothesis is successfully tested in a second series of experiments. Our result raises hopes that the chance to organize collective action of large groups is much higher than expected so far.

Suggested Citation

  • Joachim Weimann & Jeannette Brosig-Koch & Timo Heinrich & Heike Hennig-Schmidt & Claudia Keser, 2018. "The Logic of Collective Action Revisited," CESifo Working Paper Series 6962, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6962
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Claudia Keser & Frans Van Winden, 2000. "Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
    2. R. Mark Isaac & James M. Walker, 1988. "Group Size Effects in Public Goods Provision: The Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(1), pages 179-199.
    3. R. Isaac & James Walker & Susan Thomas, 1984. "Divergent evidence on free riding: An experimental examination of possible explanations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 113-149, January.
    4. Ananish Chaudhuri, 2011. "Sustaining cooperation in laboratory public goods experiments: a selective survey of the literature," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(1), pages 47-83, March.
    5. Gunnthorsdottir, Anna & Houser, Daniel & McCabe, Kevin, 2007. "Disposition, history and contributions in public goods experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 304-315, February.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Bosworth, Steven & Snower, Dennis J., 2020. "Technological advance, social fragmentation and welfare," Kiel Working Papers 2177, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    3. Kiet T. Nguyen, 2020. "Formal versus Informal System to Mitigate Non‐point Source Pollution: An Experimental Investigation," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(3), pages 838-852, September.
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    6. Jasmina Arifovic & Cars Hommes & Anita Kopányi-Peuker & Isabelle Salle, 2020. "Ten isn’t large! Group size and coordination in a large-scale experiment," Staff Working Papers 20-30, Bank of Canada.
    7. Skarzhinskaya, E. & Tsurikov, V., 2021. "Endogenous Stackelberg leadership within a team. The coalition effect," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 53-79.

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    Keywords

    public goods; large groups;

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General

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