Should the government reward cooperation? Insights from an agent-based model of wealth redistribution

Advances in Complex Systems (2021)

with Frank Schweitzer, Luca Verginer and Giacomo Vaccario

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In our multi - agent model agents generate wealth from repeated interactions for which a prisoner's dilemma payoff matrix is assumed. Their gains are taxed by a government at a rate α. The resulting budget is spent to cover administrative costs and to pay a bonus to cooperative agents, which can be identified correctly only with a probability p. Agents decide at each time step to choose either cooperation or defection based on different information. In the local scenario, they compare their potential gains from both strategies. In the global scenario, they compare the gains of the cooperative and defective subpopulations. We derive analytical expressions for the critical bonus needed to make cooperation as attractive as defection. We show that for the local scenario the government can establish only a medium level of cooperation, because the critical bonus increases with the level of cooperation. In the global scenario instead full cooperation can be achieved once the cold - start problem is solved, because the critical bonus decreases with the level of cooperation. This allows to lower the tax rate, while maintaining high cooperation.