Most undergraduate economics majors learn that humans lack an incentive to contribute to so-called “public goods.” Experiments in the lab, however, show that this prediction of eliminatory theory doesn’t always describe real human behavior. Nor, as the late Elinor Ostrom showed, does it describe human behavior outside the lab. In the real world, it turns out that humans often do contribute to public goods.
These contributions are often facilitated by creative institutional arrangements. Kickstarter, for example, has allowed 2.5 million people to contribute over $350 million to creative projects. This year, people will voluntarily contribute more to the arts through Kickstarter than they will through the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts.
But let’s set aside numbers and theory. If you’d like to see a deeply moving example of how free people can come together to solve problems and do absolutely amazing things, see this movie.
I saw it this week and I can attest that it is one of the most powerful and moving films I have ever seen.
If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, you will have one more chance to see it this Friday night. If you live outside, D.C., go here to see if it is screening in your area. Now here is the cool part, if it isn’t playing in your area, an innovative service called Tugg, allows you to organize a screening in your own town (creative institutional arrangement, that).
So prove elementary economics wrong. Contribute to the public good and organize a screening. I guarantee you will find it deeply personally rewarding.