of commons (fisheries, forests, rangelands), and for other structural characteristics of communities (group size).27 Despite the impressive advances of research chronicled in this volume, the lacunae in our knowledge are still great, as is the potential contribution to commons users’ welfare of policy makers’ judicious application of that knowledge.



Ours is not the first attempt to survey this literature; see also Baland and Platteau (1999).


The effects of many other group characteristics are considered systematically in Agrawal (this volume:Chapter 2).


Ostrom and Gardner (1993) recount the experience of an irrigation system in Nepal, where the richer farmers are located at the tail-end; this system is better maintained than those where the tail-enders are poorer.


Bardhan (1997) analyzes the economic aspects of ethnic conflict.


Fafchamps (1992) explores the emergence of such patron-client relationships in agrarian economies using the theory of repeated games.


See Cárdenas (1999) and Henrich et al. (2000) for field-based laboratory experiments among actual commons users.


See also Zwarteveen (1997) for a discussion of gender in the context of irrigation management transfer.


This result is generalized in a pure public goods model by Bergstrom et al. (1986). (Parenthetically, Bergstrom et al. sought to dispel the earlier conventional wisdom in economics, namely, that changes in the distribution of wealth would not affect the overall level of public goods provided in society.)


Alternatively, the rajakariya case might be an example of the proportionality between costs and benefits that Ostrom (1990) claims is exhibited by successful commons management regimes. In one variant of this story, proportionality should neutralize the effects, good or bad, of inequality. Dayton-Johnson (2000a) provides a simple game-theoretic illustration of the proportionality principle.


The “lumpiness” in third-party monitoring to which Agrawal (this volume:Chapter 2) refers is another example of nonconvexity.


See Bardhan (1995) for further examples from the case study literature on farmer-managed irrigation systems in Asia.


Baland and Platteau (in press) note that the effect of increased wealth inequality on inequality in costs is likely to be hard to predict. On the issue of cost inequalities on the commons, see also the paper by Hackett (1992).


Parenthetically, these mechanisms might be viewed as variants of the macroeconomic redistributive-pressure mechanism modeled by Persson and Tabellini (1994). Inequality in their model leads to pressure from below to redistribute income; this in turn leads to a tax on capital that lowers investment and growth. In the arena of institutional supply on the commons, in contrast, the wealthy require more of the notional gains from cooperation than the poor are willing to accept and commons management regimes fail to emerge.


Graphically, the exit-option function (measured on the vertical axis) rises sharply from the origin, but gradually levels off as wealth increases (on the horizontal axis).


Contrary to Miguel’s definition, ethnicity might be conceived alternatively as an identity associated with shared norms, but not necessarily with sanctioning. As such, ethnic homogeneity or heterogeneity would affect commons management more through shared understandings than through sanctioning behavior.

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