Free Rider and Voting Paradox Games

Sulock, Joseph M. "The Free Rider and Voting Paradox ‘Games.’" The Journal of Economic Education. 21 (Winter 1990) 65-69.

Public goods have two unique characteristics: nonrival consumption and nonexclusion. As a result consumers of public goods rarely pay their fair share for the good (the free rider problem). To illustrate this problem to students, the following classroom exercise could be conducted. The instructor explains that a collection is going to be taken and a student may contribute from one to ten dollars. To this pot the teacher will add twenty percent and the total sum will be divided equally among all of the members of the class. Students are then given a few minutes to plan a group strategy. Obviously if each member of the group gave the maximum amount everyone would be better off. In reality this does not happen. The money is then collected from each of the students in private, with the instructor secretly recording individual giving. On average students give between $1.25 and $1.75. A class discussion of all relevant issues can follow.