Free Riding as Mechanism
Free-riding is methodologically puzzling. It is at the same time important and often not observed as an actual phenomenon. The paper explores the possibility of treating free riding as an underlying or causal mechanism. As such, free riding is to be treated as part of the real world rather than of the world of models or theories. However, the free riding mechanism is particularly prone to operate not in isolation but together with other mechanisms. This feature has consequences on issues such as empirical content, testability or relevance. These questions are discussed in the light of some recent work in philosophy of science and with special attention given to the development of experimental methods in economics.
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