Edited by Frank Whelon Wayman, Paul R. Williamson, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Solomon Polachek
Chapter 7: Explaining and predicting future environmental scarcities and conflicts
It is well established that unregulated property structures create incentives to overuse natural resources (Hardin 1968). The overuse of natural resources, in turn, creates scarcities, leading individuals and households to try to appropriate more resources for themselves by, for example, producing more children (Nerlove 1991; Dasgupta 1995). The result is an increase in population that further aggravates scarcities. The absence of regulations and predetermined dispute resolution schemes, along with growing scarcity, leads to incentives to appropriate resources by force. Armed conflicts ensue among rival bands whose leaders try to take advantage of the situation. This has been called the “tragedy of coercion” (Konrad and Skaperdas 1999). A synthesis of interactions resulting from the absence of regulation, the exacerbation of scarcity, and the ensuing conflict constitutes a “triple tragedy of the commons” which describes the failure to achieve collectively optimal levels of population, resource use, and political power. We present our preliminary views on the causal mechanisms of this tragedy within a formal theoretical framework and then illustrate them through some empirical analyses and dynamic simulations.
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