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A Ricardian Model of the tragedy of the Commons

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Abstract

This paper revisits the tragedy of the commons when agents have different capabilities in both production and encroachment activities, and can allocate their time between them. Under fairly general assumptions on production and encroachment technologies, an individual's expected income is convex with respect his actions so that individuals specialize. Consequently, in equilibrium, the economy is divided into at most two homogenous groups: encroachers and producers. The partition obeys a relative advantage criterion. Several equilibria may exist. The 'tragedy of the commons' equilibrium without production always does; the Pareto optimal allocation of activities may not be an equilibrium. We show that minute changes in property right enforcement may lead to drastic improvements for society. We argue that, in convex games such as this paper's role choice game, bounded rationality is a natural assumption, and the concept of local Nash equilibrium is the natural analytical tool to handle it. Nous étudions la tragédie des richesses communes dans un cadre où des agents qui diffèrent par leurs capacités productives et par leurs aptitudes à la prédation, choisissent d'allouer leur temps entre ces deux activités. Sous des hypothèses peu restrictives sur les technologies, les revenus attendus d'un agent sont convexes par rapport à ses actions, si bien que les individus se spécialisent et que la société se divise, à l'équilibre, en deux groupes au maximum: les prédateurs et les producteurs. La répartition s'opère selon un critère d'avantage comparatif. Il y a plusieurs équilibres. La tragédie des richesses communes (aucun producteur) est toujours l'un d'eux; l'allocation Pareto optimale pas toujours. Nous montrons que des changements mineurs dans la mise en vigueur des droits de propriété peuvent mener à des améliorations majeures pour la société. Les jeux convexes tels celui-ci appellent l'hypothèse de rationalité limitée; nous introduisons un concept d'équilibre de Nash local qui en est le pendant analytique naturel.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences économiques in its series Cahiers de recherche du Département des sciences économiques, UQAM with number 20-01.

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Length: 27
Date of creation: Feb 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Handle: RePEc:cre:uqamwp:20-01

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Keywords: Property rights; institutions; commons; convex games; general equilibrium; bounded rationality - droits de propriété; propriété commune; jeux convexes; équilibre général; rationalité limitée;

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  1. Fender, John, 1999. "A general equilibrium model of crime and punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 437-453, July.
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Cited by:
  1. David Croix & Davide Dottori, 2008. "Easter Island’s collapse: a tale of a population race," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 27-55, March.

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