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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 (EEGs), focused to analyze dilemmas associated with the use of common pool resources, have shown that individuals make extraction decisions that deviate from the suboptimal Nash equilibrium. However, few studies have analyzed whether these deviations towards the social optimum are affected as the stock of resource changes. Performing EEG with local fishermen, we test the hypothesis that the behavior of participants differs under a situation of abundance versus one of scarcity. Our findings show that under a situation of scarcity, players over-extract a given resource, and thus make decisions above the Nash equilibrium; in doing so, they obtain less profit, mine the others-regarding interest, and exacerbate the tragedy of the commons. This result challenges previous findings from the EEG literature. When individuals face abundance of a given resource, however, they deviate downward from the prediction of individualistic behavior. The phenomenon of private, inefficient overexploitation is corrected when management strategies are introduced into the game, something that underlines the importance of institutions.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/91170
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Paper provided by Universidad de Los Andes, Economics Department in its series Documentos CEDE Series with number 91170.

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Date of creation: 05 Oct 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ags:ulaedd:91170
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  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. Pauly, D., 1990. "On Malthusian overfishing," Naga, The WorldFish Center, vol. 13(1), pages 3-4.
  7. 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.
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