Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics
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Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics

Edited by Frank Whelon Wayman, Paul R. Williamson, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Solomon Polachek

It is a puzzle that while academic research has increased in specialization, the important and complex problems facing humans urgently require a synthesis of understanding. This unique collaboration attempts to address such a problem by bringing together a host of prominent scholars from across the sciences to offer new insights into predicting the future. They demonstrate that long-term trends and short-term incentives need to be understood in order to adopt effective policies, or even to comprehend where we currently stand and the sort of future that awaits us.
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Chapter 7: Explaining and predicting future environmental scarcities and conflicts

Urs Luterbacher, Dominic Rohner, Ellen Wiegandt and Sébastien di Iorio


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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