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On the Collapse of Historical Civilizations


  • David H. Good
  • Rafael Reuveny


To explain the collapse of historical civilizations, scholars typically point to suboptimal behaviors including misunderstanding the natural environment, shortsightedness, or a lack of institutions. We examine the collapse of four historical societies with a model of endogenous population growth and renewable resources employing components of optimal resource management, economic growth theory, and the moral philosophy of social welfare function choice. We find that these collapses may have been socially optimal. Further, we show that the transient behavior of the system is more sensitive to assumptions than the equilibrium behavior and that focusing solely on equilibria may miss key insights. Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press.

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  • David H. Good & Rafael Reuveny, 2009. "On the Collapse of Historical Civilizations," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(4), pages 863-879.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ajagec:v:91:y:2009:i:4:p:863-879

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pietro Peretto & Simone Valente, 2015. "Growth on a finite planet: resources, technology and population in the long run," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 305-331, September.

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