Preventing overexploitation of common-pool resources with sanctioning

Can graduated sanctioning encourage sustainable cooperation in common-pool resources? To encourage long-term cooperation in social dilemmas such as common-pool resources – like oil fields, grasslands or fishing grounds – the importance of sanctioning is often stressed. Elinor Ostrom advocates graduated sanctioning: the severity of a defector’s punishment is dependent on the extent of their history of deviant behaviour.

Fijnanda van Klingeren and Vincent Buskens published a research article on this topic: ‘Graduated sanctioning, endogenous institutions and sustainable cooperation in common-pool resources: An experimental test‘. In this study, the authors compare the effect of graduated and strict mutual sanctioning on cooperation in common-pool resources at the micro and macro level. Results support the effectiveness of graduated sanctioning compared to strict sanctioning in the long term and partial support using endogenously chosen sanctioning mechanisms versus imposed sanctioning mechanisms.