The tragedy of the risk averse

Erkenntnis:1-14 (forthcoming)
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Those who are risk averse with respect to money, and thus turn down some gambles with positive monetary expectations, are nevertheless often willing to accept bundles involving multiple such gambles. Therefore, it might seem that such people should become more willing to accept a risky but favourable gamble if they put it in context with the collection of gambles that they predict they will be faced with in the future. However, it turns out that when a risk averse person adopts the long-term perspective, she faces a decision-problem that can be analysed as a noncooperative game between different "time-slices" of herself, where it is in the interest of each time-slice (given its prediction about other slices) to turn down the gamble with which it is faced. Hence, even if a risk averse but rational person manages to take the long-term perspective, she will, in the absence of what Hardin called "mutual coercion", end up in a situation analogous to the "tragedy of the commons".

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H. Orri Stefansson
Stockholm University


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