The Effects of Communication on the Partnership Solution to the Commons
Environmental and Resource Economics, 70(2), 363-380
  • Neil J. Buckley
  • Stuart Mestelman
  • R. Andrew Muller
  • Stephan Schott
  • Jingjing Zhang


Organizing individual appropriators into output sharing groups has been found to effectively solve the tragedy of the commons problem. We experimentally investigate the robustness of this solution by introducing different channels of communication that naturally arise from group competitions. In the absence of communication, we confirm that output sharing can introduce sufficient free riding to offset over-harvesting and results in full efficiency. Allowing local communication within output-sharing groups substantially decreases this efficiency enhancement because it reduces free riding and boosts between-group competition. Yet the efficiency level is still significantly higher than that achieved when global communication is allowed among all appropriators in a conventional common pool resource without output sharing. The efficiency-reducing effect of local communication is mitigated when random partners instead of fixed partners are sharing output over time, and is nearly eliminated when random partners are formed with users who belong to different communication groups.

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