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Does scarcity exacerbate the tragedy of the commons? Evidence from fishers’ experimental responses

  • Maldonado, Jorge Higinio
  • Moreno-Sanchez, Rocio del Pilar

Economic Experimental Games (EEG) have challenged the theoretical prediction showing that individuals balance own and collective interests when making decisions that deviate away from suboptimal Nash equilibrium. However, few studies have analyzed whether these deviations from Nash equilibrium towards social optimum are affected as the stock of resource changes. Performing EEG with real fishers we test the hypothesis that behavior of participants –measured as relative deviations from Nash equilibrium- differs under a situation of abundance versus a situation of scarcity. The design of our EEG is based on a profit maximization model that incorporates intertemporal effects of aggregated extraction. Our findings show that in a situation of scarcity, players over extract the resource making decisions above the Nash equilibrium, obtaining less profit, mining the others-regarding interest, and exacerbating the tragedy of the commons. This result challenges previous general findings from the EEG literature. When individuals face abundance of the resource, however, they deviate downward from the individualistic and myopic behavior prediction. This phenomenon of private inefficient over exploitation is corrected when management strategies are introduced in the game, which underlines the importance of institutions.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/6528
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Paper provided by American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association) in its series 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida with number 6528.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea08:6528
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  1. Cardenas, Juan-Camilo, 2004. "Norms from outside and from inside: an experimental analysis on the governance of local ecosystems," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3-4), pages 229-241, June.
  2. Cleve Willis & John Stranlund & Juan-Camilo Cardenas, 2002. "Economic inequality and burden-sharing in the provision of local environmental quality," Artefactual Field Experiments 00030, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Pauly, D., 1990. "On Malthusian overfishing," Naga, The WorldFish Center, vol. 13(1), pages 3-4.
  4. Gillet, Joris & Schram, Arthur & Sonnemans, Joep, 2009. "The tragedy of the commons revisited: The importance of group decision-making," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 785-797, June.
  5. van Dijk, Frans & van Winden, Frans, 1997. "Dynamics of social ties and local public good provision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 323-341, June.
  6. Herr, Andrew & Gardner, Roy & Walker, James M., 1997. "An Experimental Study of Time-Independent and Time-Dependent Externalities in the Commons," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 77-96, April.
  7. Keser, Claudia, 1996. "Voluntary contributions to a public good when partial contribution is a dominant strategy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 359-366, March.
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