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Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.
Pellikaan and Van der Veen. Environmental dilemmas and policy design.
Provides evidence that altruistic behavior does, in fact, exist.
Puzzle: Why do some efforts to solve environmental problems fail while others succeed? We might think in terms of collective action problems, but the authors claim that the Olsonian perspective isn't optimal in this case. First, Olson assumes a common objective; in reality, many environmental dilemmas have multiple goals (e.g. some alternatives to pollution might be worse than pollution, at least for some people). Second, not everybody suffers equally from the pollution.
Contrast "thick" and "thin" rationality. Thin rationality posits only that people have transitive preferences and act accordingly. Thick rationality adds an assumption about what people value (usually money). In the case of firms in a competitive market, we can derive "thick" rationality from "thin" rationality; in the case of human individuals, we cannot. A situation that looks like a prisoner's dilemma when firms play it might look like a conditional cooperation game when individuals play it.
Olson's model was devised to account for the behavior of firms in a competitive market. In a competitive market, there is a theory from which we derive that firms will seek perfect information and maximal profit--or else they cease to exist. But outside a competitive economic market, we have no reason to deduce that people behave analogously (i.e. seeking perfect information and maximizing profit). In fact, if we did behave that way, and we ignored relationships, friendship, fairness, and kindness, large aspects of our lives would suffer; humans are not firms. And without these assumptions about their incentives, the collective action model no longer follows. Even the prisoner's dilemma doesn't apply the same way; the payoffs in a PD are based on monetary payoffs (which might apply to firms), but there may be other payoffs that individual humans care about (i.e. relationships, friendship, fairness). Only firms can be assumed to maximize dollar payoffs (as in a PD); humans maximize things other than dollars.
While some efforts have been made to reduce environmental degradation, much more can and should be done. Why hasn't it? P&V say that it is not that people don't believe that there is an environmental crises, but rather that their individual contribution, or that of their governments, would be insignificant to bother. In other words, we have a collective action problem. But national environmental policies do exist. Why? Because it is more than a collective action problem. The Olson/Hardin logic, then, seems to fall short.
The book seeks to assess viability of environmental policies that try to inform, educate, and persuade, rather than to regulate behavior by legal restrictions or monetary incentives.
Will look to micro level of individual citizen behavior to explain environmental policy. Study Netherlands because:
Use a data set based on large-scale survey conducted in 1994. Studied the responses of a thousand individuals who responded to questions designed to bring out their attitude towards voluntary collective action. Confronted with three cases: bringing toxic waste to a neighborhood recycling point, economizing on energy at home, and forgoing holiday travel for the sake of reducing air pollution (since "everybody knows" that air travel causes pollution).
The results show that people value mutual cooperation highest of four, mutual defection lowest, and are mixed between their preferences for the mixed results. What does this show? The logic of collective action is not among the most plausible theories for predicting what rational actors want to do in situations of environmental collection action.
Turns out there is ethical cooperation in the three cases with chemical waste being highest. Energy savings being second, and holiday travel last (60%, 50%, 10%).
Research on similar subjects
Political Theory • Turnout • Prosocial Behavior
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