Public Choice

, Volume 146, Issue 3–4, pp 501–520 | Cite as

Self-enforcing norms and efficient non-cooperative collective action in the provision of public goods

  • Kai A. KonradEmail author
  • Wolfgang Leininger
Open Access


We show how norms can solve the distributional conflict inside a group in an anarchic environment and yield efficient coordination of collective action in a conflict with an external competitor. The equilibrium of the fully non-cooperative game with finite horizon has two interesting features. First, one of the players assumes a central role that resembles the role of the ‘big-man’ in some primitive stateless societies. Second, the group members’ contributions to collective output and the payments from the big-man to these members seemingly look like reciprocal behavior, even though they are driven by narrowly selfish preferences.


Free-riding Collective action Anarchy Distributional conflict War Norms Big-man 

JEL Classification

D72 D74 H11 H41 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition an Tax LawMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Dortmund (TU)DortmundGermany

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