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From Drought To Flood : Environmental Constraints And The Political Economy Of Civic Virtue

  • Galassi, Francesco L.

    (University of Warwick and Università di Ferrara)

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    The paper models co-operative engagement under varying environmental constraints giving rise to different forms of collective action problems, specifically focussing on water management in pre-industrial societies. I show that societies where water availability is strongly seasonal develop no mechanism to encourage society-wide cooperative behaviour because the benefits of water storage are fully excludable. With pre-industrial technology water storage is a pure club good, and optimal club size can be shown to be very small under credible parameter values, converging to 1 in some cases (private good). The social consequences of the environmental constraint include strongly circumscribed co-operation and rent seeking. In contrast, areas where water management involved flood control and irrigation develop society-wide institutions based on self-sustaining co-operative engagement assisted by external policing. The model thus offers an explanation of varying levels of "civic virtue" in different areas.

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    Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 643.

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    Length: 26 pages
    Date of creation: 2002
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:643
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    1. Durlauf,S.N., 1999. "The case "against" social capital," Working papers 29, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd, 2003. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small- Scale Societies," Microeconomics 0305009, EconWPA.
    3. Guttman, Joel M., 2001. "Self-enforcing reciprocity norms and intergenerational transfers: theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 117-151, July.
    4. Galassi, Francesco L., 2001. "Measuring social capital: Culture as an explanation of Italy's economic dualism," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(01), pages 29-59, April.
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