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Can incomplete information lead to under-exploitation in the commons?


  • Espínola-Arredondo, Ana
  • Muñoz-García, Félix


This paper analyzes the protection of a common pool resource (CPR) through the management of information. Specifically, we examine an entry deterrence model between an incumbent perfectly informed about the initial stock of a CPR and an uninformed potential entrant. In our model, the appropriation of the CPR by the incumbent reduces both players' future profits from exploiting the resource. In the case of complete information, we show that the incumbent operating in a high-stock common pool overexploits the CPR during the first period since it does not internalize the negative external effect that its first-period exploitation imposes on the entrant's future profits. This inefficiency, however, is absent when the commons totally regenerate across periods. Under incomplete information, we identify an additional form of inefficiency. In particular, the incumbent operating in a low-stock CPR underexploits the resource in order to signal the low available stock to potential entrants, deterring entry.

Suggested Citation

  • Espínola-Arredondo, Ana & Muñoz-García, Félix, 2011. "Can incomplete information lead to under-exploitation in the commons?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 402-413.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:62:y:2011:i:3:p:402-413
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2011.04.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Limit Pricing and Entry under Incomplete Information: An Equilibrium Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 443-459, March.
    2. Mason, Charles F & Polasky, Stephen, 1994. "Entry Deterrence in the Commons," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 35(2), pages 507-525, May.
    3. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
    4. Matthews, Steven A & Mirman, Leonard J, 1983. "Equilibrium Limit Pricing: The Effects of Private Information and Stochastic Demand," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 981-996, July.
    5. In-Koo Cho & David M. Kreps, 1987. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 179-221.
    6. Apesteguia, Jose, 2006. "Does information matter in the commons?: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 55-69, May.
    7. Dutta, Prajit K & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1993. "The Tragedy of the Commons?," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 3(3), pages 413-426, July.
    8. Polasky, Stephen & Bin, Okmyung, 2001. "Entry Deterrence and Signaling in a Nonrenewable Resource Model," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 235-256, November.
    9. Richard Gilbert & Xavier Vives, 1986. "Entry Deterrence and the Free Rider Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(1), pages 71-83.
    10. Nicolas Faysse, 2005. "Coping with the Tragedy of the Commons: Game Structure and Design of Rules," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(2), pages 239-261, April.
    11. Reinganum, Jennifer F & Stokey, Nancy L, 1985. "Oligopoly Extraction of a Common Property Natural Resource: The Importance of the Period of Commitment in Dynamic Games," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(1), pages 161-173, February.
    12. Bagwell, Kyle & Ramey, Garey, 1990. "Advertising and pricing to deter or accommodate entry when demand is unknown," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 93-113.
    13. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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    Cited by:

    1. Espínola-Arredondo, Ana & Muñoz-García, Félix, 2013. "Asymmetric information may protect the commons: The welfare benefits of uninformed regulators," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 463-467.
    2. Ana Espinola-Arredondo & Felix Munoz-Garcia, "undated". "Entry Deterrence in the Commons with Multiple Incumbents," Working Papers 2012-1, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.

    More about this item


    Common pool resources; Signaling games; Externalities;

    JEL classification:

    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities


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