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Economics of underproduction: A polycentric approach for a depopulated commons in Japan


  • Sarker, Ashutosh


This study investigates whether a polycentric approach can exceed its traditional aim of overproduction and address underproduction in a depopulated commons. Secondary data linked to a depopulated commons were analysed in a polycentric framework traditionally used by economists to address overproduction when numerous individuals collectively manage populated economic commons. The study focuses on Japan's rice terraces, which are emerging as depopulated new commons and generating positive externalities such as valuable ecosystem services. Results show that a polycentric approach comprising local, regional and national stakeholders can potentially address underproduction in depopulated rice terrace commons. Individuals produce rice in terraces despite incurring economic losses due to high production costs, a phenomenon that is difficult to explain using neoclassical economic theory. This study provides practical implications for utilising a polycentric approach to address a depopulated commons generating valuable ecosystem services.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarker, Ashutosh, 2020. "Economics of underproduction: A polycentric approach for a depopulated commons in Japan," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 171(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:171:y:2020:i:c:s0921800919312996
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106597

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Girts Racko, 2019. "The Values of Economics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 154(1), pages 35-48, January.
    2. Elinor Ostrom, 2010. "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 641-672, June.
    3. Ostrom, Vincent & Tiebout, Charles M. & Warren, Robert, 1961. "The Organization of Government in Metropolitan Areas: A Theoretical Inquiry," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(4), pages 831-842, December.
    4. Elinor Ostrom, 2014. "A Polycentric Approach For Coping With Climate Change," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(1), pages 97-134, May.
    5. Hisako Nomura & Mitsuyasu Yabe & Takeshi Nishio & Mari Izumi & Kazuo Hirai & Tetsuji Kurokawa, 2013. "Framework for improvement of farmland biodiversity in Japan," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 56(5), pages 743-758, June.
    6. Ito, Junichi & Feuer, Hart N. & Kitano, Shinichi & Asahi, Haruka, 2019. "Assessing the effectiveness of Japan's community-based direct payment scheme for hilly and mountainous areas," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 62-75.
    7. Anton D. Lowenberg, 1990. "Neoclassical Economics as a Theory of Politics and Institutions," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 9(3), pages 619-639, Winter.
    8. Ishihara, Hiroe & Pascual, Unai & Hodge, Ian, 2017. "Dancing With Storks: The Role of Power Relations in Payments for Ecosystem Services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 45-54.
    9. Katayama, Naoki & Baba, Yuki G. & Kusumoto, Yoshinobu & Tanaka, Koichi, 2015. "A review of post-war changes in rice farming and biodiversity in Japan," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 73-84.
    10. Richard H. Thaler, 2016. "Behavioral Economics: Past, Present, and Future," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(7), pages 1577-1600, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lanfredi, Maria & Egidi, Gianluca & Bianchini, Leonardo & Salvati, Luca, 2022. "One size does not fit all: A tale of polycentric development and land degradation in Italy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 192(C).

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    More about this item


    Polycentric approach; Ostrom; Underproduction; Depopulated commons; Behavioural economics; Japan;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H44 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Goods: Mixed Markets


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