Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 325–353 | Cite as

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

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


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.


Public Choice Social Dilemma Chat Room Protective Association Successful Attack 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam C. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • 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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