Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

CeDEx 2010-05: The Limits of Self-Governance when Cooperators Get Punished: Experimental Evidence from Urban and Rural Russia


We report evidence from public goods experiments with and without punishment which we conducted in Russia with 566 urban and rural participants of young and mature age cohorts. Russia is interesting for studying voluntary cooperation because of its long history of collectivism, and a huge urban-rural gap. In contrast to previous experiments we find no cooperation-enhancing effect of punishment. An important reason is that there is punishment of contributors in all four subject pools. Thus, punishment can also undermine the scope for self-governance in the sense of high levels of voluntary cooperation that are sustained by sanctioning free riders only.

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Revised version of 2007-11

Now published in European Economic Review, 55(2), February 2011, 193-210


Simon Gächter and Benedikt Herrmann


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Posted on Thursday 1st April 2010

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