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The Signalling Power of Sanctions in Collective Action Problems

  • Joel van der Weele
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    We present a model of collective action in a heterogenous population of egoists and conditional cooperators. Each player is uncertain about the cooperative inclinations of the other player. A government or principal who has information about the distribution of types may introduce sanctions for defection. We study the impact of such sanctions through the e¤ect on the beliefs of the players about the distribution of types they are facing. It is shown that in equilibrium sanctions can crowd out trust between agents by sending a signal that there are many egoists around. This can lead the government to set low sanctions to induce trust and 'crowd in' cooperation. In cases where conditional cooperation is an important factor in collective action, as is the case in tax compliance, the model provides a rationale for the low observed sanctions in the real world.

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    Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2007/10.

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    Date of creation: 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2007/10
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    1. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
    2. Ichino, Andrea & Maggi, Giovanni, 2000. "Work Environment And Individual Background: Explaining Regional Shirking Differentials In A Large Italian Firm," CEPR Discussion Papers 2387, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    4. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2005. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," NBER Working Papers 11208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Cardenas, Juan Camilo & Stranlund, John & Willis, Cleve, 2000. "Local Environmental Control and Institutional Crowding-Out," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 1719-1733, October.
    6. Sliwka, Dirk, 2006. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," IZA Discussion Papers 2293, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2000. "A fine is a price," Natural Field Experiments 00258, The Field Experiments Website.
    8. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
    9. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
    10. Bruno S. Frey & Benno Torgler, 2006. "Tax Morale and Conditional Cooperation," CREMA Working Paper Series 2006-11, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    11. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2006. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," Discussion Papers 2006-01, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    12. Ernst Fehr & Simon G�chter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
    13. Sheffrin, S.M. & Triest, R.K., 1991. "Can Brute Deterrence Backfire? Perceptions and Attitudes in Taxpayer Compliance," Papers 373, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
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