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Cooperation in the commons with unobservable actions

Nori Tarui, Charles F. Mason, Stephen Polasky, Greg Ellis Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 55 (2008) 37–51


We model a dynamic common property resource game with unobservable actions and non-linear stock-dependent costs. We propose a strategy profile that generates a worst perfect equilibrium in the punishment phase, thereby supporting cooperation under the widest set of conditions. We show under what set of parameter values for the discount rate, resource growth rate, harvest price, and the number of resource users, this strategy supports cooperation in the commons as a subgame perfect equilibrium. The strategy profile that we propose, which involves harsh punishment after a defection followed by forgiveness, is consistent with human behavior observed in experiments and common property resource case studies.

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Keywords: Common property resources, Renewable resources, Cooperation, Dynamic games, Worst perfect equilibrium, Subgame perfection; Unobservable actions

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