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A free lunch in the commons

  • Kotchen, Matthew J.
  • Salant, Stephen W.

We derive conditions under which raising costs through a regulatory constraint or a fully expropriated tax can increase the profits arising from a common-pool resource. The basic model assumes a fixed number of identical agents with linear costs selling in a single period at an exogenous price. A necessary and sufficient condition for a cost increase to be profitable is that aggregate output from the resource be locally convex in aggregate effort. We also show that cost increases can be profitable even if price is endogenous, agents are heterogeneous, entry is costless, or agents are playing a Markov-perfect equilibrium of a dynamic game. We also discuss more general welfare implications of the result along with its relation to existing results for a Cournot oligopoly.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Volume (Year): 61 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 245-253

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:61:y:2011:i:3:p:245-253
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622870

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  1. Baye, Michael R. & Hoppe, Heidrun C., 2003. "The strategic equivalence of rent-seeking, innovation, and patent-race games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 217-226, August.
  2. Tarui, Nori & Mason, Charles F. & Polasky, Stephen & Ellis, Greg, 2008. "Cooperation in the commons with unobservable actions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 37-51, January.
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  9. Baik, Kyung Hwan & Lee, Sanghack, 2001. "Strategic Groups and Rent Dissipation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(4), pages 672-84, October.
  10. Heintzelman, Martin & Salant, Stephen W. & Schott, Stephan, 2008. "Putting Free-Riding to Work: A Partnership Solution to the Common-Property Problem," MPRA Paper 9804, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. H. Scott Gordon, 1954. "The Economic Theory of a Common-Property Resource: The Fishery," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 124.
  12. Shapiro, Carl, 1989. "Theories of oligopoly behavior," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 6, pages 329-414 Elsevier.
  13. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Varian, Hal R, 1985. "When Are Nash Equilibria Independent of the Distribution of Agents' Characteristics?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 715-18, October.
  14. Karen Palmer & Wallace E. Oates & Paul R. Portney, 1995. "Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 119-132, Fall.
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