Timmy Tiptoes and the Tale of Costly Punishment

By Dr David Hugh-Jones

timmy-tiptoes-2This post is about a paper of mine with Carlo Perroni of Warwick University, The Logic of Costly Punishment Reversed. It has just been accepted in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (ungated version at my website).

The germ for this paper came in 2006 at Northwestern University, in a chat with my game theory lecturer, Christoph Kuzmics. He mentioned to me that he was working on evolutionary game theory explanations for costly punishment.

The idea of costly punishment is that people are prepared to pay costs so as to punish bad behaviour or take revenge. For example, if a guy starts a bar fight because you spilled his beer, or someone lectures you for leaving litter, that might be costly punishment. Why is that important? Well, all societies need to maintain order – to prevent crime and ensure that people contribute to community goods. Modern societies have the machinery of the state –  the policeman and the tax office – to do this.  But throughout history, most people have lived in small societies without states; and there are many kinds of bad behaviour, like littering, that it would be too expensive or intrusive to control using the state’s coercive power. Instead,  people in the group must punish bad behaviour, either verbally, financially or physically.

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The behavioural economics of parkrun

By Prof Theodore Turocy 

Last week, Stoke Gifford Parish Council voted to institute a £1 per runner charge on the parkrun (http://www.parkrun.org.uk) event held at Little Stoke Park in Bristol, citing, among other factors, the maintenance costs imposed on the park by the 200 or more participants who run, jog, or walk 5km as part of the event each week. This item has been newsworthy, among other reasons, as national policy has an objective of encouraging health and fitness.  Some of these national initiatives are based on standard economic principles of subsidising to encourage certain types of activity, and taxing to discourage others.  For example, hosting the 2012 London Olympics was justified in part in the hope it would create a legacy of increased participation in sport, while the recent tax on drinks with a high sugar content is intended to help reduce excessive consumption of sugar, which can have serious long-term health consequences.  How, then, did we come to a situation where a local council is, in effect, proposing to tax an activity that policy at the national level would encourage?


Runners at a parkrun event

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