The end of summer heralds the annual ritual of the suburban block party.  The street has to be blocked off, notices have to be put up so no-one parks on the street, food has to be ordered or cooked etc.  The burden falls on the people with kids because “The block party’s for the kids” we all say. Obviously, there is a huge free-rider problem – we can all enjoy the benefits of the block party without spending time on setting things up.  If you don’t hang out with your neighbors much, “repeated game” effects are minor.  Hence, morality and peer pressure must step in to provide incentives.

For example, suppose you sign up to put up notices warning people not to park on the street on the day of the block party.  You write up some flyers and put them under car windscreen wipers. You print off notices and staple them to trees.  You think you’ve done a pretty good job.  The next day you wander round putting in new flyers under car wipers and check on the notices.  Mysteriously, someone has taken it upon themselves to put up their own notices.  These are taped to the trees not stapled.  Is that really superior?  You are not sure but you see the implicit rebuke in the intervention. Homo economicus would revel in the intervention – he could slack off even more knowing someone will do his job for him.  But homo normalicus feels a tad pissed off and even a bit guilty, even though no guilt is truly warranted.  Next year, normalicus will go back to picking up the fried chicken from Jewel-Osco.  But if economicus/evilicus pops out, he will do the same job worse out of rationality or spite.

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