Voluntary Cooperation and
Monitoring Lead to Success
EurekAlert reports on forest commons management research from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology:
Many imminent problems facing the world today, such as deforestation, overfishing, or climate change, can be described as commons problems. The solution to these problems requires cooperation from hundreds and thousands of people. Such large scale cooperation, however, is plagued by the infamous cooperation dilemma. According to the standard prediction, in which each individual follows only his own interests, large-scale cooperation is impossible because free riders enjoy common benefits without bearing the cost of their provision. Yet, extensive field evidence indicates that many communities are able to manage their commons, albeit with varying degrees of success. How do we explain this variation in management outcomes? How do different levels of cooperation emerge and what contributes to their success? The economist Prof. Michael Kosfeld examined these questions together with his colleagues Devesh Rustagi and Prof. Stefanie Engel from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. The answer: The degree of voluntary cooperation together with the monitoring of free riders plays a key role in the success of commons management.