Cooperation in a public goods game has been studied extensively to find the conditions for sustaining the commons, yet the effect of asymmetry between agents has been explored very little. Here we study a game theoretic model of cooperation for pest control among farmers. In our simple model, each farmer has a paddy of the same size arranged adjacently on a line. A pest outbreak occurs at an abandoned paddy at one end of the line, directly threatening the frontier farmer adjacent to it. Each farmer pays a cost of his or her choice to an agricultural collective, and the total sum held by the collective is used for pest control, with success probability increasing with the sum. Because the farmers’ incentives depend on their distance from the pest outbreak, our model is an asymmetric public goods game. We derive each farmer's cost strategy at the Nash equilibrium. We find that asymmetry among farmers leads to a few unexpected outcomes. The individual costs at the equilibrium do not necessarily increase with how much the future is valued but rather show threshold behavior. Moreover, an increase in the number of farmers can sometimes paradoxically undermine pest prevention. A comparison with a symmetric public goods game model reveals that the farmer at the greatest risk pays a disproportionate amount of cost in the asymmetric game, making the use of agricultural lands less sustainable.
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