On the Collapse of Historical Civilizations

Posted: 8 Oct 2009

See all articles by David H. Good

David H. Good

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)

Rafael Reuveny

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) - School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA); Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)

Date Written: 2009-02

Abstract

To explain the collapse of historical civilizations, scholars typically point to suboptimal behaviors including misunderstanding the natural environment, shortsightedness, or a lack of institutions. We examine the collapse of four historical societies with a model of endogenous population growth and renewable resources employing components of optimal resource management, economic growth theory, and the moral philosophy of social welfare function choice. We find that these collapses may have been socially optimal. Further, we show that the transient behavior of the system is more sensitive to assumptions than the equilibrium behavior and that focusing solely on equilibria may miss key insights.

Suggested Citation

Good, David Henning and Reuveny, Rafael, On the Collapse of Historical Civilizations (2009-02). American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 91, Issue 4, pp. 863-879, November 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1483975 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8276.2009.01312.x

David Henning Good

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Rafael Reuveny

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) - School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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