American Economic Review: Vol. 99 No. 3 (June 2009)


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Trade, Tragedy, and the Commons

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Copeland, Brian R., and M. Scott Taylor. 2009. "Trade, Tragedy, and the Commons." American Economic Review, 99(3): 725-49.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.3.725


We develop a theory of resource management where the degree to which countries escape the tragedy of the commons, and hence the de facto property rights regime, is endogenously determined. Three forces determine success or failure in resource management: the regulator's enforcement power, the extent of harvesting capacity, and the ability of the resource to generate competitive returns without being extinguished. The model can explain heterogeneity across countries and resources in the effectiveness of resource management, and it predicts that changes in prices, population, and technology can cause transitions to better or worse management regimes. (JEL P14, Q21, Q22, Q23, Q32)

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Copeland, Brian R. (U British Columbia)
Taylor, M. Scott (U Calgary)

JEL Classifications

P14: Capitalist Systems: Property Rights
Q21: Renewable Resources and Conservation: Demand and Supply (the Commons)
Q22: Renewable Resources and Conservation: Fishery; Aquaculture
Q23: Renewable Resources and Conservation: Forestry
Q32: Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development

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