Individualism and Governance of the Commons
Forthcoming, Public Choice
40 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2019
Date Written: September 13, 2019
Individualistic cultures are associated with economic growth and development. Do they also improve governance of the commons? According to the property rights literature, conservation is more likely when the institutions of property arise from a spontaneous process in response to local problems. We argue that individualistic cultures contribute to conservation by encouraging property rights entrepreneurship: efforts by individuals and communities to resolve commons dilemmas, including their investment of resources in securing political recognition of spontaneously arising property rights. We use the theory to explain cross-country rates of change in forest cover. Using both subjective measures of individualistic values and the historical prevalence of disease as instruments for individualism, we find that individualistic societies have higher reforestation rates than collectivist ones, consistent with our theory.
Keywords: Individualism, Collectivism, Private property rights, Tragedy of the commons, Self-governance, Deforestation
JEL Classification: B52, O1, O5, Q2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation