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Today, Wikipedia is again running a donation drive in an attempt to raise more money. Their requests seem to occur more frequently each year. I would guess that 99.99%+ of Wikipedia users never donate, and yet continue to use the service. The existence of Wikipedia as a resource certainly isn't "free," as servers cost money. I wondered what all of the free-riders would do if Wikipedia were to run out of funding and not exist as a resource anymore.

Can anyone share some insight/examples around what happens in a given microeconomy in which the "free" good - the existence of which results in the free-rider problem - is taken away? Is there a sudden rush from the free-riders to pay, and then after some time, donations regress to their original mean?

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  • $\begingroup$ I removed the microeconomics tag because I don't think that fits here. You seem to be looking for a field study/lab experiment. If you disagree, feel free to roll back the edit. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Nov 29 '16 at 18:58
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This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but your question reminds me of the work of Elinor Ostrom, who (along with Oliver Williamson) won the Nobel in Economics for her work on what academics in the field call 'the commons'.

Here's a good place to start reading about her work. Check under 'Popular Information' and 'Advanced Information' in particular for details about her work.

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