Environmental illusion in the depletion of common property resources
by Karl Steininger
International Journal of Environment and Pollution (IJEP), Vol. 4, No. 3/4, 1994

Abstract: Energy use is characterised by the commons situation with respect to exhaustion of finite resources, the depletion rate decision for renewable resources, and the generation of pollution. Each of these can be collectively managed by norms or by institutional rules ('common property'), or users can remain uncoordinated ('open access'). This article analyses the former concept, common property, in a dynamic context. It suggests that, even though cooperation prevails, the use rate generally is not optimal, but rather converges to the socially optimal one – in an often slow and time-consuming process. Technical change especially exerts continuous pressure on institutional and normative reform. Key concepts of psychology, sociology and anthropology motivate a change of the basic economic model: individuals choose not only goods but also how to process information – in particular with a bias, so that they feel good about themselves. The implications for the use of common property resources are analysed, and conclusions are drawn for the local and global context.

Online publication date: Thu, 17-Sep-2009

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