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The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use

James A. Brander and M. Scott Taylor
The American Economic Review
Vol. 88, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 119-138
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/116821
Page Count: 20
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The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use
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Abstract

This paper presents a general equilibrium model of renewable resource and population dynamics related to the Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model, with man as the predator and the resource base as the prey. We apply the model to the rise and fall of Easter Island, showing that plausible parameter values generate a "feast and famine" pattern of cyclical adjustment in population and resource stocks. Near-monotonic adjustment arises for higher values of a resource regeneration parameter, as might apply elsewhere in Polynesia. We also describe other civilizations that might have declined because of population overshooting and endogenous resource degradation.

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