Discussion: Hampton on free riding

Economics and Philosophy 19 (2):311-320 (2003)
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Abstract

Jean Hampton has argued that an important case of the free-rider problem has the structure of a battle-of-the-sexes game, rather than the Prisoner's Dilemma, as is often assumed. This case occurs when the collective good to be produced is a ‘step’ or ‘lumpy’ good, one that is produced in a single production step. Battle of the Sexes is a coordination game, with stronger equilibria than games such as the Prisoner's Dilemma or Chicken. Hampton argues that, because of this difference, there is good reason to think that players facing a battle-of-the-sexes game can more easily reach mutually desirable outcomes than players facing these other games. An examination of Hampton's argument, however, shows that she has failed to specify a condition that would clearly distinguish her examples of battle-of-the-sexes games from chicken games. Consequently, Hampton's claim that free riding in the provision of step goods is less tempting than other analyses have suggested because of the presence of coordination equilibria is incorrect as it stands

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