The Behavioral Logic of Collective Action: Partisans Cooperate and Punish More than Non-Partisans
Political Psychology, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2007 Last revised: 22 Oct 2009
Date Written: September 25, 2007
Why do individuals engage in personally costly, partisan activities that benefit others? If individuals act according to rational self-interest, then partisan activity occurs only when the benefits of that activity exceed its costs. However, laboratory experiments suggest that many people are willing to contribute to public goods and to punish those who do not contribute - even when these activities are personally costly and when members of the experimental group are completely anonymous. We hypothesize that these individuals, called strong reciprocators, underlie the capacity of political parties to organize competition for scarce resources and the production of public goods. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment that includes a random income game with costly income alteration and a standard public goods game with costly punishment. These games allow us to gauge participants' willingness to contribute to public goods and to engage in the costly punishment of free-riders. The results show that partisans are more likely than nonpartisans to contribute to public goods and to engage in costly punishment. Thus, inherent tastes for cooperation and sanctioning help resolve the paradox of party participation.
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