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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How will the election impact the UK economy?

With the dust now finally settled after the general election two weeks ago, it has allowed us all time to reflect on what the results mean for the country.

The Conservatives won a shock majority after Britain went to the polls on May 7th. The economy had been the major talking point in the build up to the election with the Tories positioning themselves as a ‘safe pair of hands’ to manage the country’s continued economic recovery.

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Parties battle over economic strategies

With the 2015 General Election now less than six weeks away, attention has turned to the main political parties’ economic strategy. As always the debate will have a crucial influence on who ends up in power.

David Cameron has claimed that his government are running on a “record of economic success”. A key part of his pre-election rhetoric has centred on warning of the risks involved in handing the country’s economic recovery over to the Labour Party. He has urged voters to remember Labour’s record of high borrowing while in office, something which Cameron insists would be disastrous for Britain’s economy should it happen again.

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