Degree Name



Political Science


Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Daniel L. Nielson

First Faculty Reader

Jaren C. Pope

Honors Coordinator

John Holbein


Tragedy of the Commons; Common Pool Resources; Political Economy; Game Theory; Regime Type; Laboratory Experiment


This experiment is based on a game-theoretic problem that has troubled the field of political economy since people first started grazing cows in pastures: how can economies best solve collective action problems? This experiment looks at one aspect of this question—types of governance. Are different styles of government (democracies, dictatorships, etc) more or less likely to prevent a common-pool resource (as these goods are called by Elinor Ostrom) from being depleted? Or is the style of governance irrelevant to the question of whether a CPR (common-pool resource) is sustained?

The problem of CPRs (common pool resources) is much the same as this game. If everyone cooperates with the plan (that is, takes only their fair share), then the collective payout would be far greater than if any one person had defected from the plan. For example, everyone can graze on the pasture for a long time if no one consumes faster than the pasture can grow back. However, if one person defects from the plan, then that person can walk away with all of the CPR, leaving nothing for the other players unless the other players also defect.

I will experiment using a democratic society, dictatorship, and a control group with no leadership. I will then take note of which groups were able to preserve the common pool resource until the end of the game. I hypothesize that the control group will be the most effective at preserving the common pool resource.