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Coordination problems and resource collapse in the commons — Exploring the role of knowledge heterogeneity


  • Lindahl, Therese


The role of environmental uncertainty has not been ignored in the common resource literature, but underlying most of this research is an explicit or implicit assumption of symmetric uncertainty. In this paper I relax the assumption of symmetric uncertainty and analyze how knowledge heterogeneity influences coordination problems that can arise in common resource settings. This paper demonstrates that knowledge heterogeneity can work as a coordination device; the more users differ with respect to knowledge, the smaller is the coordination problem as well as the probability of resource breakdown. Less informed users can take advantage of their ignorance at the expense of more informed users. Furthermore, regulation can reduce the coordination problem further, but only by reinforcing the benefit from ignorance. Thus when analyzing and suggesting policies for reducing the inefficiencies associated with common resources where rivalry prevails, one should not only be concerned about the level of environmental uncertainty, but also the distribution, as it matters too.

Suggested Citation

  • Lindahl, Therese, 2012. "Coordination problems and resource collapse in the commons — Exploring the role of knowledge heterogeneity," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 52-59.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:79:y:2012:i:c:p:52-59
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.04.016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elinor Ostrom, 2000. "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 137-158, Summer.
    2. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
    3. ., 1998. "Game Theory," Chapters,in: The Handbook of Economic Methodology, chapter 42 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
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    Cited by:

    1. Güth, Werner & Levati, M. Vittoria & Soraperra, Ivan, 2015. "Common and private signals in public goods games with a point of no return," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 164-184.


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