There is a strange (negative) correlation between the more individuals perceive themselves as “citizens of the world,” the less likely they are to contribute to collective public goods and the more likely to hitch a “free ride” on the contributions of other citizens. This finding emerges from the doctorate thesis of Dr. Eitan Adres from the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa. This makes me wonder what this study could tell us about users of AirBnB or Uber or the whole sharing-economy…
Sadly I only was able to track down the press release, but it sure got me interested…
From the press release:
A key dilemma in political science concerns the question of “free riders.” A rational person can be expected to prefer behavior that allows them to evade their obligations and rely on the contributions of others — ranging from tax evasion to refraining from donating to charities and on to draft dodging. Nevertheless, most people choose not to act in accordance with this rational model. According to Dr. Adres, the level of acquiescence to governmental demands depends in part on citizens’ level of trust in the government. Globalization has clouded concepts such as identity, culture, and borders and raises numerous challenges in terms of this bond between state and citizen.
In Dr. Adres’ thesis, which was supervised by Dr. Dana Vashdi and Dr. Yair Zalmanovitch, he sought to examine the connection between globalization and participation in contribution to public goods. To this end, the study presents an innovative and unique index determining the individual’s globalization level, whose impact is not dependent on the level of globalization of the state.
Four countries were chosen to examine this relationship: Germany and Australia, which both have a high level of globalization; Columbia, which has a low level of globalization; and in the middle Israel, which has an intermediate level of globalization. Approximately one thousand participants in the four countries participated in three economic decision games testing their willingness to contribute to a public good.
The findings showed that the more people consider themselves to adhere to the values of globalization, consumerism, and individualism, and the more they regard themselves as “citizens of the world” exposed to globalization, the less likely they are to contribute to public goods and the more likely they are to seek to be “free riders” on the contributions of others.
This finding was particularly apparent in the first experiment, when the participants were divided into groups and received 100 tokens each. The participants were asked to choose an amount from their 100 tokens to be pooled in a communal pot. The total amount donated would be doubled and this doubled amount would be distributed evenly among all participants, no matter how much each one contributed. Thus each individual received the equal portion of the communal pot together with the tokens they did not contribute to the pot. The collective interest in this situation is that each participant will contribute all their tokens to the collective pot. The individual interest is not to contribute anything, and to add the money shared from the pot to the 100 tokens. The study found that 30 percent of German participants and 25 percent of the Australians preferred to keep all their tokens to themselves. By contrast, only 3.6 percent of the Columbians and 12 percent of the Israelis chose to do so.
The two other experiments produced similar findings. The second experiment simulated a tax payment system, by means of truthful reporting of the level of payment each participant received, while the final experiment examined a real-life donation to a charity for children at risk. The three experiments found that a high level of globalization increases the likelihood that the individual will not provide a truthful report on income, will catch a “free ride” on others’ contributions, and will donate less to a charity.
As expected, a similar correlation was found between the level of globalization of the country and the participants’ contributions. The greater the country’s globalization level, the higher the average probability that its citizens would not contribute anything to the communal pot in the first experiment; would make untrue reports in the tax experiment (truthful reports were made by 27 percent of the German sample, 41 percent of the Australians, 60 percent of the Israelis, and 75 percent of the Columbians); and would make a smaller donation to the charity.
Dr. Adres summarizes his findings: “Since we found a clear correlation between the individual’s globalization level and their contribution to public goods, above and beyond the state’s influence, our conclusion is that there is a correlation between this personality characteristic and values such as social solidarity and social cohesion. The new index we have developed provides a significant and important tool for understanding the connection between citizen and state in today’s world.”