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Easter Island’s Collapse : A Tale of a Population Race

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  • David, DE LA CROIX

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Department of Economics)

  • Davide, DOTTORI

Abstract

The Easter Island tragedy has become an allegory for ecological catastrophe and a warning for the future. In the economic literature the collapse is usually attributed to irrational or myopic behaviors in the context of a fragile ecosystem. In this paper we propose an alternative story involving non-cooperative bargaining between clans to share the crop. Each clan’s bargaining power depends on its threat level when fighting a war. The biggest group has the highest probability of winning. A clan’s fertility is determined ex ante by each group. In the quest for greater bargaining power, each clan’s optimal size depends on that of the other clan, and a population race follows. This race may exhaust the natural resources and lead to the ultimate collapse of the society. In addition to well-known natural factors, the likelihood of a collapse turns out to be greater when the cost of war is low, the probability of succeeding in war is highly responsive to the number of fighters, and the marginal return to labor is not too low. We analyze whether these factors can account for the difference between Easter and Tikopia Islands. The paper also makes a methodological contribution in that it is the first fertility model to include strategic complementarities between groups’ fertility decisions

Suggested Citation

  • David, DE LA CROIX & Davide, DOTTORI, 2007. "Easter Island’s Collapse : A Tale of a Population Race," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2007005, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvec:2007005
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    1. Mariani, Fabio & Pérez-Barahona, Agustín & Raffin, Natacha, 2010. "Life expectancy and the environment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 798-815, April.
    2. de la Croix, David & Gosseries, Axel, 2012. "The natalist bias of pollution control," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 271-287.
    3. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2014. "Population, technology and fragmentation: The European miracle revisited," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 87-105.
    4. Jakub Growiec, 2018. "The Digital Era, Viewed From a Perspective of Millennia of Economic Growth," Working Papers 2018-034, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of Economic Analysis.
    5. de la Croix, David & Gobbi, Paula E., 2017. "Population density, fertility, and demographic convergence in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 13-24.
    6. Dao, Nguyen Thang & Dávila, Julio, 2013. "Can geography lock a society in stagnation?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(3), pages 442-446.
    7. He, Qichun, 2011. "Weather, fertility, and land: land curse in economic development in a unified growth theory," MPRA Paper 35420, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Boucekkine, R. & Fabbri, G. & Gozzi, F., 2014. "Egalitarianism under population change: Age structure does matter," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 86-100.
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    10. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2013. "Violence and property rights," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 312-328.
    11. Luca Marchiori & Patrice Pieretti & Benteng Zo, 2008. "Brain Drain, Remittances, and Fertility," Economie Internationale, CEPII research center, issue 115, pages 9-42.
    12. Han, Yutao & Pieretti, Patrice & Zanaj, Skerdilajda & Zou, Benteng, 2014. "Asymmetric competition among nation states: A differential game approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 71-79.
    13. Nagase, Yoko & Uehara, Takuro, 2011. "Evolution of population-resource dynamics models," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 9-17.
    14. Chan, Kenneth S. & Laffargue, Jean-Pierre, 2016. "Plunder and tribute in a Malthusian world," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 138-150.
    15. López, Ramón & Schiff, Maurice, 2013. "Interactive dynamics between natural and man-made assets: The impact of external shocks," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 1-15.
    16. Sam Tang, 2008. "Scientific Research and Growth Volatility," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 08-11, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    17. Marc Germain, 2012. "Equilibres et effondrement dans le cadre d'un cycle naturel," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 55(4), pages 427-455.
    18. Davide Fiaschi, 2009. "Natural Resources, Social Conflict and Poverty Trap," Discussion Papers 2009/82, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
    19. Raouf Boucekkine & Giorgio Fabbri & Fausto Gozzi, 2010. "Life span and the problem of optimal population size," Working Papers halshs-00536073, HAL.
    20. Nguyen Thang Dao & Julio Davila, 2013. "Can geography lock a society in stagnation?," Post-Print halshs-00824847, HAL.
    21. Pierre PECHER, 2013. "Ethnic conflict, power dynamics and growth," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2014008, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fertility; War; Bargaining Power; Collapse; Natural Resources;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation

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