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POLITICAL INEQUALITY, CENTRALIZED SANCTIONING INSTITUTIONS, AND THE MAINTENANCE OF PUBLIC GOODS

Han Il Chang, Christopher T. Dawes and Tim Johnson

Bulletin of Economic Research, 2018, vol. 70, issue 3, 251-268

Abstract: Centralized sanctioning institutions cultivate cooperation by eradicating the gains from free‐riding. Studies show that electing a community member to operate a centralized sanctioning institution further increases support for the public good. These studies have overlooked an all‐too‐common attribute of non‐laboratory elections: political inequality. In this paper, we replicate those studies and, then, introduce novel experimental treatments that examine how political inequality influences the cooperation‐enhancing effect of a democratic election to centralized sanctioning institutions. In our novel treatment conditions, participants receive either a random allotment of votes that they can use to elect a centralized sanctioning authority or an allocation of votes proportional to their earnings in a previously‐executed public goods game. We find that political inequalities created via the random allocation of votes do not hinder cooperation, whereas political inequalities created via past game play undermine elected authorities and diminish contributions to the public good from individuals advantaged by political inequality.

Date: 2018
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