The classic proposal for solving CollectiveActionProblems is the State in various forms. Traditionally, PublicGoodsProblems are resolved by invoking the state to provide the good, from highways to welfare services to the rule of law.

In broad terms, a state intervention can be viewed as a kind of group decision making process. It is a variety of HierarchicalDecisionmaking processes where a number of group members have more power than others to influence group actions.

One problem with a lot of state intervention solutions to CAPs is that the state is simply introduced 'deus ex machina' to solve the problem.

If there is already in existence a strong state with an effective police force etc., it may be feasible to extend the state's remit to intervene in a previously unsolved CAP. For instance, the British state and taxation system was built up primarily as a military enterprise, but in the 20th century moved into welfare provision.

But how to get something like a state started where there isn't one is itself a CAP.

A second problem for any Hierarchical system is that of corruption or exploitation. Wherever a sub-group of rational group members is given special power to influence the group action, there are opportunities and incentives to exploit this power for their individual gain. This may lead to a group action as bad as, or even worse, than the original one.

There are other kinds of hierarchical responses to CAPs. For example, some neoclassical economists argue for solving an externality PublicGoodsProblem (eg. the public bad of pollution) by assigning property rights in the externality to corporations.

There are also NonHierarchicalDecisionmaking proposals ...


  • GoatPolice - modelling hierarchical interventions with goats

Egalitarian 'Solutions':

  • OnFederalism


Is insurance a solution to a CAP? OK, it's not exactly a solution to a CAP, but a way of pooling misfortune or trading risk is one way a market might provide some social welfare goods. I suppose the more general market based solution is "subscription". For example, a bunch people subscribe to a new encyclopedia or for FreeSoftware : they pay something up-front in order for to benefit from the final good, but the good can only be provided if a large number of people buy in. I'm not sure now whether someone who aggregates subscriptions, and will only provide the good if everyone pays up would count as a market solution, or simply prove that there isn't a CAP because there's a market solution. – PhilJones

See also :

  • TypesOfPower : what are the means of persuading other people to act. Maybe we have to go back to look at these fundamentals to try to find how to weave them together into collective action.