Civic Engagement, the Leverage Effect and the Accountable State

Kenju Kamei, Louis Putterman, Jean-Robert Tyran

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


A classic solution to the problem of public goods (PG) is their provision through a strong state with the power to collect taxes and to mete out penalties for non-compliance. The need for voluntary collective action remains, however, because binding the state to citizen's interests requires the latter's civic engagement. As a public good in its own right, economic theory expects civic engagement to be underprovided. We conduct the first laboratory experiment in which participants can create a socially efficient central sanctioning scheme (representing the accountable state) through a prior stage of voluntary costly actions that are theoretically ruled out for strictly self-interested agents—a social dilemma. Our experimental subjects sustain civic engagement when its cost is modest, suggesting sustainable cooperation in linked social dilemmas perhaps due to a cost-benefit calculus we call “leverage.”
Original languageEnglish
Article number104466
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 502057 Experimental economics
  • 502010 Public finance
  • 502027 Political economy


  • Civic engagement
  • Cooperation
  • Experiment
  • Public goods provision
  • Punishment


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