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Is Altruism Bad for Cooperation?

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  • Sung-Ha Hwang

    () (Department of Economics, Sogang University, Seoul)

  • Samuel Bowles

    () (Santa Fe Institute, U.S.A. and Dipartimento di Economia Politica, Univerity of Siena, Italy)

Abstract

Some philosophers and social scientists have stressed the importance for good government of an altruistic citizenry that values the well being of fellow citizens. Economists, however, have emphasized the need for incentives that induce even the self-interested to contribute to the public good. Implicitly most have assumed that these two approaches are complementary or at worst additive. But this need not be the case. Behavioral experiments ?nd that if reciprocity-minded subjects feel hostility towards free riders and enjoy in?icting harm on them, the incentives provided by the anticipated punishment support near e¡Ë cient levels of contributions to a public good. Cooperation may also be supported if altruistic individuals internalize the group bene?ts that their contributions produce. But the e¢´ects of these two supports for high levels of cooperation may be less than additive. Using a utility function embodying both reciprocity and altruism we show that unconditional altruism attenuates the punishment motive and thus may reduce the level of punishment in?icted on defectors, resulting in lower levels of contribution. Increases in altruism may also reduce the level of bene?ts from the public project net of contribution costs and punishment costs. The range over which altruism inhibits cooperation and reduces material payo¢´s is greater, the stronger is the reciprocity motive among group members.

Suggested Citation

  • Sung-Ha Hwang & Samuel Bowles, 2011. "Is Altruism Bad for Cooperation?," Working Papers 1114, Research Institute for Market Economy, Sogang University.
  • Handle: RePEc:sgo:wpaper:1114
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Centorrino, Samuele & Djemaï, Elodie & Hopfensitz, Astrid & Milinski, Manfred & Seabright, Paul, 2011. "Smiling is a Costly Signal of Cooperation Opportunities: Experimental Evidence from a Trust Game," TSE Working Papers 11-231, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Kenta Tanaka & Keisaku Higashida & Arvin Vista & Anton Setyo Nugroho & Budi Muhamad Ruslan, 2016. "Do resource depletion experiences affect social cooperative preferences? Analysis using field experimental data on fishers in the Philippines and Indonesia," Discussion Paper Series 143, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, revised Jun 2016.
    3. Attila Ambrus & Ben Greiner, 2012. "Imperfect Public Monitoring with Costly Punishment: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3317-3332, December.
    4. Kallis, Giorgos & Norgaard, Richard B., 2010. "Coevolutionary ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 690-699, February.
    5. Ingela Alger & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2010. "Kinship, Incentives, and Evolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1725-1758, September.
    6. repec:dau:papers:123456789/7309 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Walid F. Nasrallah & Karim A. Cheaib, 2016. "An equilibrium model of how regulative and normative institutions influence micro-economic and organizational behavior," Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 383-411, December.
    8. Jean-Marie Baland & Roberta Ziparo, 2017. "Intra-household bargaining in poor countries," WIDER Working Paper Series 108, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. Nayoung Kim & Sung-Ha Hwang, 2015. "Evolution of Altruistic Preferences among Boundedly Rational Agent," Korean Economic Review, Korean Economic Association, vol. 31, pages 239-266.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public goods; altruism; spite; reciprocity; punishment; cooperation;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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