The Coevolution of Behavior and Normative Expectations: Customary Law in the Lab
29 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2012 Last revised: 9 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 1, 2011
Customary law has been criticized from very different angles. Rational choice theorists claim that what looks like custom is nothing but self-interest. Positivists doubt that anything beyond consent assumes the force of law. In this paper, we adopt an experimental approach to test these claims. We show that the willingness to overcome a dilemma transcends self-interest. Cooperation is significantly higher in the presence of a meta-rule for the formation of customary law. Yet only if it is backed up by sanctions, law is significantly more effective than mere comity. Customary law guides behavior into the normatively desired direction as normative expectations and behavioral patterns co-evolve.
Keywords: experiment, Public Good, Customary Law, Normativity, Crowding Out
JEL Classification: H41, D63, C91, D62, K10, D03, C14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation