Letter: The Free Rider Problem


Your Nov 10 blog entry contained a link to Wikipedia’s “free rider problem“. That article in wikipedia is extremely biased. I’d like to suggest you also provide a link to this article as well.

I had one experience that might be illustrative. I lived on a gravel road with eight other families. Eventually, we decided (after a lot of discussion) that we wanted it paved with asphalt. The decision was that everybody should pay equally. As we went around to get contributions, it turned out one would not pay and another would only pay $1000. The first was understandable, because the owner had no home there and no prospect for one due to changes in county zoning. The second simply said he didn’t mind gravel and the asphalt was only worth $1000 to him. The rest of us then decided to spread these unmet costs among the remaining families. We had “free riders”, but we paved the road anyway because each individual decided it was worth it. There was no need for any coercion or government action. Free riding was not a problem at all but just individual decisions about what to do. If the others had not wanted to take on the extra cost so that the road was not paved, that would have been an acceptable outcome as well. – P.B.