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Whom to blame? An experiment of collective harming and punishing

Author

Listed:
  • Werner Güth

    () (Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group)

  • Hironori Otsubo

    () (Soka University, Faculty of Economics)

Abstract

In a situation, where it is efficient for one of two parties to pollute but highly inefficient if both parties do so, the harmed third party can freely impose its damage claims on both parties what crucially determines which equilibrium to expect. Whereas "equality before the law" requires equal punishments, efficient equilibria are predicted when holding one party responsible and letting the other escape punishment. After discussing equilibrium selection for the game, we report on an experiment with two treatment variables: one that determines when the harmed party announces its potential damage claims and one varying a game- and justice-unrelated difference between the two culprits. According to our experimental data, "equality before the law" dominates but is weakened by asymmetry in wealth and the possibility to announce sanctions.

Suggested Citation

  • Werner Güth & Hironori Otsubo, 2011. "Whom to blame? An experiment of collective harming and punishing," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-046, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2011-046
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    File URL: http://pubdb.wiwi.uni-jena.de/pdf/wp_2011_046.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John C. Harsanyi & Reinhard Selten, 1988. "A General Theory of Equilibrium Selection in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262582384, January.
    2. 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.
    3. Werner Güth & Hartmut Kliemt & Axel Ockenfels, 2001. "Retributive Responses," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 45(4), pages 453-469, August.
    4. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    5. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fangfang Tan & Erte Xiao, 2014. "Third-Party Punishment: Retribution or Deterrence?," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2014-05, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Law and economics; Equality vs. efficiency; Equilibrium selection; Laboratory experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)

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