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Head-enders as stationary bandits in asymmetric commons: Comparing irrigation experiments in the laboratory and the field

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Author Info

  • Janssen, Marco A.
  • Anderies, John M.
  • Cardenas, Juan-Camilo

Abstract

The emergence of large-scale irrigation systems has puzzled generations of social scientists, since they are particularly vulnerable to selfish rational actors who might exploit inherent asymmetries in the system (e.g. simply being the head-ender) or who might free ride on the provision of public infrastructure. As part of two related research projects that focus on how subtle social and environmental contextual variables affect the evolution and performance of institutional rules, several sets of experiments have been performed in laboratory settings at Arizona State University and in field settings in rural villages in Thailand and Colombia. In these experiments, participants make both a decision about how much to invest in public infrastructure and how much to extract from the resources generated by that public infrastructure. With both studies we find that head-enders act as stationary bandits. They do take unequal shares of the common-pool resource but if their share is very large relative to downstream participants' shares, the latter will revolt. Therefore for groups to be successful, head-enders must restrain themselves in their use of their privileged access to the common-pool resource. The comparative approach shows that this result is robust across different social and ecological contexts.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 70 (2011)
Issue (Month): 9 (July)
Pages: 1590-1598

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:9:p:1590-1598

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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Keywords: Common pool resources Experimental economics Asymmetry Irrigation;

References

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  1. Elinor Ostrom & Roy Gardner, 1993. "Coping with Asymmetries in the Commons: Self-Governing Irrigation Systems Can Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 93-112, Fall.
  2. Hackett Steven & Schlager Edella & Walker James, 1994. "The Role of Communication in Resolving Commons Dilemmas: Experimental Evidence with Heterogeneous Appropriators," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 99-126, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Du Bois, Rodrigo Salcedo & Macias, Miguel Angel Gutierrez, 2013. "Cooperation makes it happen? Groundwater management in Aguascalientes, Mexico: An experimental approach," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 151139, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  2. Narloch, Ulf & Pascual, Unai & Drucker, Adam G., 2012. "Collective Action Dynamics under External Rewards: Experimental Insights from Andean Farming Communities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(10), pages 2096-2107.
  3. Timothy M. Waring & Sandra Hughes Goff & Julia McGuire & Z. Dylan Moore & Abigail Sullivan, 2014. "Cooperation across Organizational Boundaries: Experimental Evidence from a Major Sustainability Science Project," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(3), pages 1171-1190, March.
  4. Jennifer Jacquet & David Frank & Christopher Schlottmann, 2013. "Asymmetrical Contributions to the Tragedy of the Commons and Some Implications for Conservation," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(3), pages 1036-1048, March.
  5. Otto, Ilona M. & Wechsung, Frank, 2014. "The effects of rules and communication in a behavioral irrigation experiment with power asymmetries carried out in North China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 10-20.

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