As we all know, the gospel is overrun with economic doctrine. On that note, I noticed a quote about free riding from President Monson (which I just saw at Mormon Times):
“I am confident it is the intention of each member of the church to serve and to help those in need,” he said. “At baptism we covenanted to ‘bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.’ How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that ‘Oh, surely someone will take care of that need.’”
Under reasonable assumptions it is not hard to show that if people only give out of an altruistic desire to see others better off, and they have no personal gain (emotional or otherwise) from being the giver, than most people will free ride and leave the giving to the very rich (who have nothing better to do with their money). Since this doesn’t happen as much as that theory suggests, a likely cause is that givers are those who perceive some individual gain from giving — either because it makes them feel good or, as King Benjamin pointed out, it was essential to their salvation.
Thus “pure altruists”, as defined by those who have no personal gain from the gift, free ride. Givers are those who see a personal need to give.
Perhaps this is related to the phenomenon that religious people systematically give more than the less religious. The less religious are less inclined to be moved by doctrines about how charity is essential to salvation, thus they more strongly perceive a free riding problem and so systematically are more likely to prefer government solutions to overcome free riding problems in charitable giving (i.e. welfare programs).
Or not. The point is we probably all should be giving more to a charitable cause.