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Institution Formation in Public Goods Games

  • Kosfeld Michael
  • Okada Akira
  • Riedl Arno


Centralized sanctioning institutions are of utmost importance for overcoming free-riding tendencies and enforcing outcomes that maximize group welfare in social dilemma situations. However, little is known about how such institutions come into existence. In this paper we investigate, both theoretically and experimentally, the endogenous formation of institutions in a public goods game. Our theoretical analysis shows that players may form sanctioning institutions in equilibrium, including those where institutions govern only a subset of players. The experiment confirms that institutions are formed frequently as well as that institution formation has a positive impact on cooperation rates and group welfare. However, the data clearly reveal that players are unwilling to implement institutions in which some players have the opportunity to free ride. In sum, our results show that individuals are willing and able to create sanctioning institutions, but that the institution formation process is guided by behavioral principles not taken into account by standard theory.

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Paper provided by Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR) in its series Research Memorandum with number 029.

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Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unm:umamet:2006029
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  6. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2007. "Punishing free-riders: How group size affects mutual monitoring and the provision of public goods," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 31-51, July.
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  8. Martin Sefton & Robert S. Shupp & James Walker, 2005. "The Effect of Rewards and Sanctions in Provision of Public Goods," Working Papers 200504, Ball State University, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2005.
  9. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
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  18. Anderson, Christopher M. & Putterman, Louis, 2006. "Do non-strategic sanctions obey the law of demand? The demand for punishment in the voluntary contribution mechanism," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 1-24, January.
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  24. Huck, Steffen & Weizsacker, Georg, 2002. "Do players correctly estimate what others do? : Evidence of conservatism in beliefs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 71-85, January.
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