Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Ratio Working Papers,
The Ratio Institute

No 163: Experiment on the Demand for Encompassment

Daniel Klein (), Xiaofei Pan (), Daniel Houser () and Gonzalo Schwarz ()
Additional contact information
Daniel Klein: George Mason University, Ratio Institute, Postal: The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 3203, SE-103 64 Stockholm, Sweden
Xiaofei Pan: George Mason University
Daniel Houser: George Mason University
Gonzalo Schwarz: George Mason University

Abstract: The idea of political community is appealing on a gut-level. Hayek suggested that certain genes and instincts still dispose us toward the ethos and mentality of the hunter-gatherer band, and that modern forms of political collectivism have, in part, been atavistic reassertions of such tendencies. Picking up on Hayek, Klein (2005) has suggested a combination of yearnings: 1) a yearning for coordinated sentiment (like Smithian sympathy); and 2) a yearning that the sentiment encompass the whole group. This paper reports on an experiment designed to explore the demand for encompassment by having subjects sing together. In each trial, one person in the room was designated not to sing unless every one of the others in the room had made a payment sufficient so as to have that person sing. Subjects chose to sacrifice money to achieve encompassment 47.4 percent of the time, with 59.6 percent of the subjects doing so in at least one trial. An exit questionnaire showed that subjects’ chief reason for making such a sacrifice was a belief that the singing would be more enjoyable if it encompassed the whole group, and reported enjoyment is significantly higher with encompassment. We discuss the experiment as a parable for a penchant toward political collectivism.

Keywords: Encompassment; political psychology; Hayek; the people’s romance

JEL-codes: A13; H89; Z10

24 pages, February 28, 2011

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