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The public goods game is a psychology experiment often used to teach in college-level social psychology and economics classes. The premise is this: every player is given an equal amount of money and asked to contribute as much as they want to a communal pot. The moderator of the game then doubles the pot and pays out all the players equal dividends. For example, if ten players each put in $2, for a total of $20, the pot doubles to $40, and each player is paid $4. To win the game, every player needs to give the most money possible so that all can reap the rewards. However, whenever psychologists test this game, they inevitably find that after a few rounds, players will begin to freeload by putting in less than the maximum contribution. These freeloaders are soon punished by the other players, and everyone ends up losing in the end.
The game always, invariably ends the same way. There are always those who try to cheat the system, and there are always those that try to cheat the cheaters, even at their own personal cost. We see this type of behavior in the world around us every single day, and it can make a person start to wonder, why try so hard to live virtuously?
When the cheaters seem to be winning
If you've ever looked around you and felt discouraged by moral decay, know that you are not alone. It is a trying time to raise a family and be a contributing member of society. As we teach our children to be the good in the world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of bad influences that surround our families. When we start feeling like the cheaters, liars, and freeloaders have everything handed to them, it's time for a change of perspective.
Value-based living, or the conscientious effort to live a life full of intention and honor, has inherent rewards even when those rewards are not immediately clear. Living a life full of intention leads to long-term rewards such as fulfilling family relationships, stable career success, close friendships and personal satisfaction.