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Problems of the commons: group behavior, cooperation and sanctioning in a two-harbor experiment

  • Dmytro Zhosan (a1) and Roy Gardner (a2)

This paper analyzes individual and group behavior in an experimental commons. Different factors that can help avoid the tragedy of the commons are studied in four experimental settings: separation of a larger commons into smaller commons (two harbors), knowledge/experience available to appropriators, communication within appropriator groups and the possibility of formal and informal sanctioning of group members. Subject populations include undergraduate students as well as professionals working in the Maine lobster and groundfish industries. This design enables a behavioral comparison between students and professionals, as well as a comparison between professionals in these two mutually exclusive fisheries. Results show that group size, communication, geographic separation and subjects' ability to solve the coordination game caused by this separation all contribute to appropriation efficiency on the commons.

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J. Acheson and R. Gardner (2004), ‘Strategies, conflict and the emergence of territoriality: the case of the Maine lobster industry’, American Anthropologist 106(2): 296307.

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E. Ostrom , J. Walker , and R. Gardner (1992), ‘Covenants with and without a sword: self-governance is possible’, American Political Science Review 86(2): 404417.

E. Ostrom , R. Gardner , and J. Walker (1994), Rules, Games and Common-Pool Resources, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

J. Wilson (1982), ‘The economical management of multispecies fisheries’, Land Economics 58(4): 417434.

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Environment and Development Economics
  • ISSN: 1355-770X
  • EISSN: 1469-4395
  • URL: /core/journals/environment-and-development-economics
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