Play in standard laboratory Public Good games suggests that on average, humans are quite prone to cooperate. Yet cooperation is often absent in real world social dilemmas, including many environmental problems. We propose that this discrepancy arises because in the Public Good game, the worst freeriders can do is to not contribute to the public account, while in many real world environmental situations freeriders can even appropriate contributions made by others before the public good is produced. We introduce the Claim Game that modifies the Public Good game by allowing for appropriating the contributions of others before the public good is produced. The impact of such possible takings on public good production is dramatic. No public good is produced, not even in the initial stages of interaction. We link our findings to the relevance of common pool games for modeling environmental problems, and stress the need to experimentally test environmental institutions within harsher social dilemmas than the standard Public Good game.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management
Department of Applied Economics

van Soest, D.P, Stoop, J.T.R, & Vyrastekova, J. (2016). Toward a delineation of the circumstances in which cooperation can be sustained in environmental and resource problems. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 77, 1–13. doi:10.1016/j.jeem.2015.12.004