Voting on Allocation Rules in a Commons: Predictive Theories and Experimental Results

"An immense outpouring of empirical studies has been published during the past decade focusing on the norms and rules that have evolved or been chosen to govern smaller, relatively homogeneous common-pool resources. In many field settings, the tragedy of the commons has been avoided and robust institutions(Shepsle, 1989) have been used to govern fragile common-pool resources for several centuries (Netting, 1981; E. Ostrom, 1990). Empirical studies of existing field settings, while crucial for establishing external validity, are not immune to four threats to establishing a firm explanation of observed cooperative behavior. First, scholars can rarely obtain quantitative data about the potential benefits that could be achieved if participants cooperate at an optimal level or about the level of inefficiency yielded when they act independently. Second, it is thus difficult to determine how much improvement has been achieved as contrasted to the same setting without particular institutions in place. Third, without using expensive time series designs, studies only include those resources that have survived; and, the proportion of similar cases that did not survive is unknown. Fourth, many variables differ from one case to the next. This means a large number of cases is required to gain statistical control of the relative importance of diverse variables. In this regard, the few studies that have attempted cross sectional control using a relatively large number of field cases have produced important results that complement individual case studies."
game theory, common pool resources--theory, efficiency, Workshop