Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 325–353

Anarchy, groups, and conflict: an experiment on the emergence of protective associations

  • Adam C. Smith
  • David B. Skarbek
  • Bart J. Wilson
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00355-011-0534-5

Cite this article as:
Smith, A.C., Skarbek, D.B. & Wilson, B.J. Soc Choice Welf (2012) 38: 325. doi:10.1007/s00355-011-0534-5


In this article, we investigate the implications of the philosophical considerations presented in Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by examining group formation in a laboratory setting where subjects engage in both cooperative and conflictual interactions. We endow participants with a commodity used to generate earnings, plunder others, or protect against plunder. In our primary treatment, we allow participants to form groups to pool their resources. We conduct a baseline comparison treatment that does not allow group formation. We find that allowing subjects to organize themselves into groups does not lead to more cooperation and may in fact exacerbate tendencies towards conflict.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam C. Smith
    • 1
  • David B. Skarbek
    • 2
  • Bart J. Wilson
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political Science, Perkins LibraryDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Economic Science InstituteChapman UniversityOrangeUSA

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