by Bowles, Samuel; Gintis, Herbert (2002)
Garrett Hardin  famously described a group of herders whose pursuit of self-interest leads to overgrazing of a pasture, driving it to ruin. His term for the process, the 'tragedy of the commons', underlined its inexorable nature. But herders, fishers and other users of common resources frequently avert the tragedy, devising ways to pursue common objectives and to curb free riding . Indeed, it is a distinctive characteristic of humans that we cooperate in large groups of people to whom we are not related -- giving to charity, participating in political movements, and conforming to social norms. On page 137 of this issue, Fehr and Gächter  describe the outcome of an experimental game involving human players which suggests that a key ingredient in human cooperation may be the punishment of free riders by their more public-spirited peers.
KeywordsCo-Operation, Empirical Research, Empirical Study
ThemesCooperation, Evolutionary Theory, Anthropology of Work
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