The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use

The American Economic Review, Vol. 88, No.1 (March 1998)

Posted: 12 Feb 1998  

James A. Brander

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Sauder School of Business

M. Scott Taylor

University of Calgary - Department of Economics

Abstract

We present a simple general equilibrium model of renewable resource and population dynamics that might explain the rise and fall of Easter Island's civilization. The model generates a system similar to the Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model. In our formulation man is the predator and the resource base is the prey, leading to the possibility of feast and famine cycles of rising and falling population and resource stocks. Such cycles tend to arise when fertility is high and the resource base grows slowly. We speculate that such cycles may often cause violent conflict and describe other civilizations that may have declined because of population overshooting and endogenous resource degradation.

JEL Classification: D58, Q21, Q29

Suggested Citation

Brander, James A. and Taylor, M. Scott, The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use. The American Economic Review, Vol. 88, No.1 (March 1998). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=57468

James A. Brander

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Sauder School of Business ( email )

2053 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Canada
604-822-8483 (Phone)
604-822-8477 (Fax)

Michael Scott Taylor (Contact Author)

University of Calgary - Department of Economics ( email )

2500 University Drive, NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4
Canada

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