Working Paper No. 163.Download
The idea of political community is appealing on a gut-level. Hayek suggested that certain genes and instincts still dispose us toward the ethos and mentality of the hunter-gatherer band, and that modern forms of political collectivism have, in part, been atavistic reassertions of such tendencies. Picking up on Hayek, Klein (2005) has suggested a combination of yearnings: 1) a yearning for coordinated sentiment (like Smithian sympathy); and 2) a yearning that the sentiment encompass the whole group. This paper reports on an experiment designed to explore the demand for encompassment by having subjects sing together. In each trial, one person in the room was designated not to sing unless every one of the others in the room had made a payment sufficient so as to have that person sing. Subjects chose to sacrifice money to achieve encompassment 47.4 percent of the time, with 59.6 percent of the subjects doing so in at least one trial. An exit questionnaire showed that subjects’ chief reason for making such a sacrifice was a belief that the singing would be more enjoyable if it encompassed the whole group, and reported enjoyment is significantly higher with encompassment. We discuss the experiment as a parable for a penchant toward political collectivism.
Klein, D., Pan, X., Houser, D. & Schwarz, G. (2011). Experiment on the Demand for Encompassment. Ratio Working Paper No. 163.