Experiment on the Demand of Encompassment


Daniel Klein, George Mason University

Opponent: Dan Johansson

Datum: Onsdagen den 19 januari

Klockan: 14.00 – 15.30

Plats: Ratio, Sveavägen 59, Stockholm

Abstract: There is a gut-level appeal to the idea of political community. Hayek suggested that some of our genes and instincts still dispose us toward the ethos and mentality of the hunter-gather band, and that modern forms of political collectivism have been, in part, atavistic reassertions of such tendencies. Picking up on Hayek, Klein (2005) has suggested a combination of yearnings: First, a yearning for coordinated sentiment (like Smithian sympathy); and second, additionally, a yearning that the sentiment encompass the whole group. This paper reports on an experiment designed to explore the demand for encompassment. The experiment shows that people are quite often willing to pay to make experience and sentiment encompassing. The experiment had subjects sing together. But whether everyone in the group sang was determined by the willingness of each subject to pay to make the experience encompassing. In deciding whether to sacrifice money to achieve encompassment, subjects did so 47.4 percent of the time, and 59.6 percent of the subjects did so in at least one trial. An exit questionnaire showed that the chief reason that the individual made such a sacrifice was that she thought that the singing would be more enjoyable if it encompassed the whole group. We discuss the experiment as parable for a penchant toward political collectivism.

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