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The Evolution of Social Norms in Common Property Resource Use

Rajiv Sethi and E. Somanathan
The American Economic Review
Vol. 86, No. 4 (Sep., 1996), pp. 766-788
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2118304
Page Count: 23
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The Evolution of Social Norms in Common Property Resource Use
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Abstract

The problem of extracting commonly owned renewable resources is examined within an evolutionary-game-theoretic framework. It is shown that cooperative behavior guided by norms of restraint and punishment may be stable in a well-defined sense against invasion by narrowly self-interested behavior. The resource-stock dynamics are integrated with the evolutionary-game dynamics. Effects of changes in prices, technology, and social cohesion on extraction behavior and the long-run stock are analyzed. When threshold values of the parameters are crossed, social norms can break down leading generally to the lowering of the long-run stock, and possibly to its extinction.

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