Tragedy of the commons
Overview
The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource
Resource
A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced, typically of limited availability.Resource may also refer to:* Resource , substances or objects required by a biological organism for normal maintenance, growth, and reproduction...

, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this to happen. This dilemma was first described in an influential article titled "The Tragedy of the Commons", written by ecologist Garrett Hardin
Garrett Hardin
Garrett James Hardin was an American ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation and whose concept of the tragedy of the commons brought attention to "the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment"...

 and first published in the journal Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

in 1968.

Hardin's Commons Theory is frequently cited to support the notion of sustainable development
Sustainable development
Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

, meshing economic growth and environmental protection, and has had an effect on numerous current issues, including the debate over global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

.
Encyclopedia
The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource
Resource
A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced, typically of limited availability.Resource may also refer to:* Resource , substances or objects required by a biological organism for normal maintenance, growth, and reproduction...

, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this to happen. This dilemma was first described in an influential article titled "The Tragedy of the Commons", written by ecologist Garrett Hardin
Garrett Hardin
Garrett James Hardin was an American ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation and whose concept of the tragedy of the commons brought attention to "the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment"...

 and first published in the journal Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

in 1968.

Hardin's Commons Theory is frequently cited to support the notion of sustainable development
Sustainable development
Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

, meshing economic growth and environmental protection, and has had an effect on numerous current issues, including the debate over global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

. An asserted impending "tragedy of the commons" is frequently warned of as a consequence for adopting policies which restrict private property and espouse expansion of public property.

Central to Hardin's article is an example (first sketched in an 1833 pamphlet by William Forster Lloyd
William Forster Lloyd
William Forster Lloyd FRS was a British writer on economics.He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating BA in 1815 and MA in 1818....

) of a hypothetical and simplified situation based on medieval land tenure in Europe, of herders sharing a common parcel of land, on which they are each entitled to let their cows graze. In Hardin's example, it is in each herder's interest to put the next (and succeeding) cows he acquires onto the land, even if the quality of the common is damaged for all as a result, through overgrazing
Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...

. The herder receives all of the benefits from an additional cow, while the damage to the common is shared by the entire group. If all herders make this individually rational economic decision, the common will be depleted or even destroyed, to the detriment of all.

A similar dilemma of the commons
The commons
The commons is terminology referring to resources that are owned in common or shared between or among communities populations. These resources are said to be "held in common" and can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains public property and...

 had previously been discussed by agrarian reformers since the 18th century. Hardin's predecessors used the alleged tragedy, as well as a variety of examples from the Greek Classics, to justify the enclosure
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

 movement. German historian Joachim Radkau
Joachim Radkau
Joachim Radkau is a German historian.- Life :Son of a Protestant priest, he studied history in Münster, Berlin and Hamburg from 1963 to 1968. He was influenced e.g. by Fritz Fischer. His doctorate 1970 treated the role of German immigrants 1933-45 on Franklin D. Roosevelt...

 sees Garrett Hardin's writings as having a different aim in that Hardin asks for a strict management of common goods via increased government involvement or/and international regulation bodies.

Hardin's work has been criticised on the grounds of historical inaccuracy, and for failing to distinguish between common property
Common-pool resource
In economics, a common-pool resource , also called a common property resource, is a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system , whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use...

 and open access
Open Access (Infrastructure)
In the context of infrastructure, open access involves physical infrastructure such as railways and physical telecommunications network plant being made available to clients other than the owners, for a fee....

 resources. Subsequent work by Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom is an American political economist. She was awarded the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson, for "her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons." She was the first, and to date, the only woman to win the prize in...

 and others suggests that using Hardin's work to argue for privatization of resources is an "overstatement" of the case. Nonetheless, Ostrom recognizes that there are real problems, and even limited situations where the tragedy of the commons applies to real-world resource management.

As Hardin acknowledged there was a fundamental mistake in the use of the term “commons." This was already noted in 1975 by Ciriacy-Wantrup & Bishop (1975: 714) who wrote that we "are not free to use the concept 'common property resources' or 'commons' under conditions where no institutional arrangements exist. Common property is not 'everybody's property' (...). To describe unowned resource (res nullius
Res nullius
Res nullius is a Latin term derived from Roman law whereby res is not yet the object of rights of any specific subject. Such items are considered ownerless property and are usually free to be owned...

) as common property (res communis), as many economists have done for years (...) is a self-contradiction." Neglecting the difference between common property and open access resources is a major reason of confusion in the debate that followed the 1968 Hardin's article.

Later commentary

In the 16th century School of Salamanca
School of Salamanca
The School of Salamanca is the renaissance of thought in diverse intellectual areas by Spanish and Portuguese theologians, rooted in the intellectual and pedagogical work of Francisco de Vitoria...

, Luis de Molina observed that individual owners take better care of their goods than they do of common property.

More recently, William Forster Lloyd
William Forster Lloyd
William Forster Lloyd FRS was a British writer on economics.He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating BA in 1815 and MA in 1818....

 noted the comparison with medieval village land holding in his 1833 book on population.

Such a notion is not merely an abstraction, but its consequences have manifested literally in such common grounds as the Boston Common
Boston Common
Boston Common is a central public park in Boston, Massachusetts. It is sometimes erroneously referred to as the "Boston Commons". Dating from 1634, it is the oldest city park in the United States. The Boston Common consists of of land bounded by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street,...

, where overgrazing
Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...

 led to discontinuation of the common's use as public grazing ground. Radkau gives further, more positive examples and alleges the "real tragedy of the commons" to be ruthless use of common land motivated by agrarian reforms.

Summary

At the beginning of his essay, Hardin draws attention to problems that cannot be solved by technical means, as distinct from those with solutions that require "a change only in the techniques of the natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values
Value (personal and cultural)
A personal or cultural value is an absolute or relative ethical value, the assumption of which can be the basis for ethical action. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based...

 or ideas of morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

". Hardin contends that this class of problems includes many of those raised by human population growth and the use of the Earth's natural resource
Natural resource
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

s. The problem of population growth, Hardin asserts is endemic to society's inextricable ties to the welfare state. Hardin says that a world in which individuals rely on themselves and not on the relationship of society and man, how many children a family would have would not be a public concern. Parents who breed excessively would leave fewer descendants because they would be unable to provide for each child adequately. Such negative feedback is found in the animal kingdom. Hardin says that if the children of improvident parents starved to death, if overbreeding was its own punishment--then there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families. For Hardin, it is the welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

 that allows the tragedy of the commons; where the state provides for children and supports overbreeding as a fundamental human right, malthusian catastrophe
Malthusian catastrophe
A Malthusian catastrophe was originally foreseen to be a forced return to subsistence-level conditions once population growth had outpaced agricultural production...

 is inevitable. Hardin laments this interpretation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
This parental reproductive freedom was endorsed by the 1968 UN Proclamation of Tehran. Hardin advocates repudiation of this element of the Proclamation.

To make the case for "no technical solutions," Hardin notes the limits placed on the availability of energy (and material resources) on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, and also the consequences of these limits for "quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

." To maximize population, one needs to minimize resources spent on anything other than simple survival, and vice versa. Consequently, he concludes that there is no foreseeable technical solution to increasing both human populations and their standard of living
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

 on a finite planet.

From this point, Hardin switches to non-technical or resource management solutions to population and resource problems. As a means of illustrating these, he introduces a hypothetical example of a pasture
Pasture
Pasture is land used for grazing. Pasture lands in the narrow sense are enclosed tracts of farmland, grazed by domesticated livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep or swine. The vegetation of tended pasture, forage, consists mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs...

 shared by local herder
Herder
A herder is a worker who lives a possibly semi-nomadic life, caring for various domestic animals, in places where these animals wander pasture lands....

s, which he calls a commons. Assuming that the herders only wish is yield maximization, they will increase their herd size whenever possible. The marginal utility
Marginal utility
In economics, the marginal utility of a good or service is the utility gained from an increase in the consumption of that good or service...

 of each additional animal has both a positive and negative component:
  • Positive: the herder receives all of the proceeds from each additional animal.
  • Negative: the pasture is slightly degraded by each additional animal.


Crucially, division of these costs and benefits is unequal: the individual herder gains all of the advantage, but the disadvantage is shared among all herders using the pasture. Assuming that the negative impact on the herder's other animals is less than the income of a new one, the rational course of action for each individual herder will always be herd expansion. Since all herders reach the same conclusion, overgrazing
Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...

 is inevitable. Each herder will continue to impose costs
Externality
In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit, not transmitted through prices, incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit...

 on all of the others, until the pasture is depleted.

Because this sequence of events follows predictably from the behavior of the participants, Hardin describes it as a "tragedy."

In the course of his essay, Hardin develops the theme, drawing in examples of latter day "commons," such as the atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s, advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

, and even parking meter
Parking meter
A parking meter is a device used to collect money in exchange for the right to park a vehicle in a particular place for a limited amount of time. Parking meters can be used by municipalities as a tool for enforcing their integrated on-street parking policy, usually related to their traffic and...

s. The example of fish stocks had led some to call this the "tragedy of the fishers." Throughout the essay the impact of human population growth is a concern, with the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

's resources being a general common.

The essay addresses potential management
Management
Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

 solutions to commons problems including privatization
Privatization
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector to the private sector or to private non-profit organizations...

, polluter pays, and regulation
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

. Keeping with his original pasture analogy, Hardin categorizes these as effectively the "enclosure
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

" of commons, and notes a historical progression from the use of all resources as commons (unregulated access to all) to systems in which commons are "enclosed" and subject to methods of regulated use in which access is prohibited or controlled. Hardin argues against relying on conscience
Conscience
Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong. Moral judgement may derive from values or norms...

 as a means of policing commons, suggesting that this favors selfish individuals — often known as free riders
Free rider problem
In economics, collective bargaining, psychology, and political science, a free rider is someone who consumes a resource without paying for it, or pays less than the full cost. The free rider problem is the question of how to limit free riding...

 — over those who are more altruistic.

In the context of avoiding over-exploitation of common resources
Common-pool resource
In economics, a common-pool resource , also called a common property resource, is a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system , whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use...

, Hardin concludes by restating Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

's maxim (which was quoted by Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

), "freedom is the recognition of necessity." He suggests that "freedom" completes the tragedy of the commons. By recognizing resources as commons in the first place, and by recognizing that, as such, they require management, Hardin believes that humans "can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms."

Aside from its subject matter (resource use), the essay is notable (at least in modern scientific circles) for explicitly dealing with issues of morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

, and doing so in one of the scientific community
Scientific community
The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method...

's premier journals, Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

.
Indeed, the subtitle for the essay is "The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality."

Meaning

The metaphor illustrates the argument that free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately reduces the resource through over-exploitation, temporarily or permanently. This occurs because the benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals or groups, each of whom is motivated to maximize use of the resource to the point in which they become reliant on it, while the costs of the exploitation are borne by all those to whom the resource is available (which may be a wider class of individuals than those who are exploiting it). This, in turn, causes demand for the resource to increase, which causes the problem to snowball to the point that the resource is depleted (even if it retains a capacity to recover). The rate at which depletion of the resource is realized depends primarily on three factors: the number of users wanting to consume the common in question, the consumptiveness of their uses, and the relative robustness of the common.

Like William Lloyd
William Forster Lloyd
William Forster Lloyd FRS was a British writer on economics.He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating BA in 1815 and MA in 1818....

 and Thomas Malthus
Thomas Malthus
The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS was an English scholar, influential in political economy and demography. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent....

 before him, Hardin was primarily interested in the problem of human population growth
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

. In his essay he also focused on the use of larger (though still limited) resources such as the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, as well as pointing out the "negative commons" of pollution (i.e., instead of dealing with the deliberate privatization of a positive resource, a "negative commons" deals with the deliberate commonization of a negative cost, pollution).

As a metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

, the tragedy of the commons should not be taken too literally. The phrase is shorthand
Shorthand
Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

 for a structural relationship and the consequences of that relationship, not a precise description of it. The "tragedy" should not be seen as tragic in the conventional sense, nor must it be taken as condemnation of the processes that are ascribed to it. Similarly, Hardin's use of "commons" has frequently been misunderstood, leading Hardin to later remark that he should have titled his work "The Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons".

The tragedy of the commons has particular relevance in analyzing behavior in the fields of economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

, evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

, game theory
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

, politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, taxation, and sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

. Some also see it as an example of emergent behavior, with the "tragedy" the outcome of individual interactions in a complex system
Complex system
A complex system is a system composed of interconnected parts that as a whole exhibit one or more properties not obvious from the properties of the individual parts....

.

Criticism

Hardin's essay has been widely criticized. Public policy experts have argued that Hardin's account of the breakdown of common grazing land was inaccurate, and that such commons were effectively managed to prevent overgrazing. Referring to Hardin's crucial passage on page 1244,17 Partha Dasgupta
Partha Dasgupta
Professor Sir Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, FRS, FBA , is the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge; Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and Professor of Environmental and Development Economics at the...

, for example, comments that "it is difficult to find a passage of comparable length and fame that contains so many errors as the one quoted."

More significantly, criticism has been fueled by the application of Hardin's ideas to current policy issues. In particular, some authorities have read Hardin's work as specifically advocating the privatization of commonly owned resources. Consequently, resources that have traditionally been managed communally by local organizations have been enclosed
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

 or privatized
Privatization
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector to the private sector or to private non-profit organizations...

. Ostensibly, this serves to protect such resources, but it ignores the pre-existing management, often appropriating resources and alienating indigenous (and frequently poor) populations. In effect, private or state use may result in worse outcomes than the previous management of commons.

Some of this controversy stems from disagreement over whether individuals will always behave in the selfish fashion posited by Hardin. Others have argued that even self-interested individuals will often find ways to cooperate, because collective restraint serves both the collective and individual interests. Hardin's piece has also been criticised as promoting the interests of Western economic ideology. G. N. Appell, an anthropologist, states: "Hardin's claim has been embraced as a sacred text by scholars and professionals in the practice of designing futures for others and imposing their own economic and environmental rationality on other social systems of which they have incomplete understanding and knowledge."

Hardin's advocacy of clearly defined property rights has frequently been used as an argument for privatization, or private property, per se. The opposite situation to a tragedy of the commons is sometimes referred to as a tragedy of the anticommons
Tragedy of the anticommons
The tragedy of the anticommons is a neologism coined by Michael Heller to describe a coordination breakdown where the existence of numerous rightsholders frustrates achieving a socially desirable outcome. The term mirrors the older term tragedy of the commons used to describe coordination...

: a situation in which rational individuals (acting separately) collectively waste a given resource by under-utilizing it.

Modern commons

The tragedy of the commons can be considered in relation to environmental issues such as sustainability
Sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

. The commons dilemma stands as a model for a great variety of resource problems in society today, such as water, land, fish, and non-renewable energy sources such as oil and coal.

Situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include the overfishing and destruction of the Grand Banks
Grand Banks
The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.The mixing of these waters...

, the destruction of salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 runs on rivers that have been dammed most prominently in modern times on the Columbia River
Columbia River
The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, flows northwest and then south into the U.S. state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state...

 in the Northwest United States, and historically in North Atlantic rivers the devastation of the sturgeon fishery in modern Russia, but historically in the United States as well and, in terms of water supply, the limited water available in arid regions (e.g., the area of the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south...

) and the Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 water system supply, especially at Mono Lake
Mono Lake
Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean...

 and Owens Lake
Owens Lake
Owens Lake is a mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County, California. It is located about south of Lone Pine, California...

.

Other situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include pollution
Pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

 caused by driving cars. There are many negative externalities
Externality
In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit, not transmitted through prices, incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit...

 of driving; these include congestion
Traffic congestion
Traffic congestion is a condition on road networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queueing. The most common example is the physical use of roads by vehicles. When traffic demand is great enough that the interaction...

, carbon emissions, and traffic accidents. For example, every time 'Person A' gets in a car, it becomes more likely that 'Person Z' and millions of others will suffer in each of those areas.

More general examples (some alluded to by Hardin) of potential and actual tragedies include:

  • Planet Earth
    Earth
    Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

     ecology
    Ecology
    Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

    • Uncontrolled human population growth
      Population growth
      Population growth is the change in a population over time, and can be quantified as the change in the number of individuals of any species in a population using "per unit time" for measurement....

       leading to overpopulation
      Overpopulation
      Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

      .
    • Air, whether ambient air polluted by industrial emissions and cars among other sources of air pollution
      Air pollution
      Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

      , or indoor air
      Indoor air quality
      Indoor air quality is a term referring to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants....

      .
    • Water
      Water
      Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

      Water pollution
      Water pollution
      Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies . Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds....

      , Water crisis
      Water crisis
      Water crisis is a general term used to describe a situation where the available water within a region is less than the region's demand. The term has been used to describe the availability of potable water in a variety of regions by the United Nations and other world organizations...

       of over-extraction of groundwater and wasting water due to overirrigation
    • Forests Frontier logging
      Logging
      Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

       of old growth forest
      Old growth forest
      An old-growth forest is a forest that has attained great age , and thereby exhibits unique ecological features. An old growth forest has also usually reached a climax community...

       and slash and burn
      Slash and burn
      Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique which involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock...

    • Energy resources and climate
      Climate
      Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

      Burning of fossil fuels and consequential global warming
      Global warming
      Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

    • Animal
      Animal
      Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

      s Habitat
      Habitat
      * Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

       destruction and poaching
      Poaching
      Poaching is the illegal taking of wild plants or animals contrary to local and international conservation and wildlife management laws. Violations of hunting laws and regulations are normally punishable by law and, collectively, such violations are known as poaching.It may be illegal and in...

       leading to the Holocene mass extinction
      Holocene extinction event
      The Holocene extinction refers to the extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch . The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods; a sizeable fraction of these extinctions are occurring in the...

    • Oceans Overfishing
      Overfishing
      Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....


  • Publicly shared resources
    • Radio frequencies Unlicensed frequencies used for wireless communications, especially 802.11 a/b/g in the U.S., detailed under Part 15 (FCC rules)
      Part 15 (FCC rules)
      Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Part 15 is an oft-quoted part of Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations regarding unlicensed transmissions. It is a part of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations , and regulates everything from spurious emissions to unlicensed...

       would be vulnerable to the overuse of high power transmitters, especially overdriven transmitters with dirty signal profiles, and especially when combined with omnidirectional
      Omnidirectional antenna
      In radio communication, an omnidirectional antenna is an antenna which radiates radio wave power uniformly in all directions in one plane, with the radiated power decreasing with elevation angle above or below the plane, dropping to zero on the antenna's axis. This radiation pattern is often...

       antennas, had the FCC not mandated maximum transmission power for each class of device and limitations on their spectral profile.
    • Spam email
      Spam (electronic)
      Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately...

       degrades the usefulness of the email system and increases the cost for all users of the Internet while providing a benefit to only a tiny number of individuals.
    • Vandalism
      Vandalism
      Vandalism is the behaviour attributed originally to the Vandals, by the Romans, in respect of culture: ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable...

       and littering
      Litter
      Litter consists of waste products such as containers, papers, wrappers or faeces which have been disposed of without consent. Litter can also be used as a verb...

       in public spaces such as Public restrooms, parks
      Park
      A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

       and recreation areas
      Recreation area
      A recreation area is a type of protected area designated in some jurisdictions. In the United States, National Recreation Areas are administered by several different agencies. They typically do not meet the strict guidelines to become national parks. In U.S...

      .
    • Knowledge commons
      Knowledge commons
      The knowledge commons encompass immaterial and collectively owned goods in the information age. Normatively loaded, it promotes free share of knowledge...

       encompass immaterial and collectively owned goods in the information age.
    • Freeways experience heavy traffic due to overuse

Modern solutions

Articulating solutions to the tragedy of the commons is one of the main problems of political philosophy
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

. In absence of enlightened self-interest
Enlightened self-interest
Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others , ultimately serve their own self-interest....

, some form of authority or federation is needed to solve the collective action problem. In a typical example, governmental regulations can limit the amount of a common good available for use by any individual. Permit systems for extractive economic activities including mining, fishing, hunting, livestock raising and timber extraction are examples of this approach. Similarly, limits to pollution are examples of governmental intervention on behalf of the commons. Alternatively, resource users themselves can cooperate to conserve the resource in the name of mutual benefit.

Another solution for certain resources is to convert common good into private property, giving the new owner an incentive to enforce its sustainability. Effectively, this is what took place in the English Inclosure Acts. Increasingly, many agrarian studies scholars advocate studying traditional commons management systems to understand how common resources can be protected without alienating those whose livelihoods depend upon them.

An opposing idea, used by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Moon Treaty
Moon Treaty
The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, better known as the Moon Treaty or Moon Agreement, is an international treaty that turns jurisdiction of all celestial bodies over to the international community...

, Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

 and Law of the Sea Treaty as well as the UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Convention involves the international law principle that designates certain areas or resources the Common Heritage of Mankind
Common heritage of mankind
Common heritage of mankind is a principle of international law which holds that defined territorial areas and elements of humanity's common heritage should be held in trust for future generations and be protected from exploitation by individual...

.

Libertarians
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 and classical liberals
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 often cite the tragedy of the commons as an example of what happens when Lockean
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 property rights to homestead resources are prohibited by a government. These people argue that the solution to the tragedy of the commons is to allow individuals to take over the property rights of a resource, that is, privatizing it. In 1940 Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian economist, philosopher, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern Libertarian movement and the "Austrian School" of economic thought.-Biography:-Early life:...

 wrote concerning the problem:

If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is used without any regard to the disadvantages resulting. Those who are in a position to appropriate to themselves the returns — lumber and game of the forests, fish of the water areas, and mineral deposits of the subsoil — do not bother about the later effects of their mode of exploitation. For them, erosion of the soil, depletion of the exhaustible resources and other impairments of the future utilization are external costs not entering into their calculation of input and output. They cut down trees without any regard for fresh shoots or reforestation. In hunting and fishing, they do not shrink from methods preventing the repopulation of the hunting and fishing grounds.


An objection to the privatization approach is that many commons (such as the ozone layer or global fish populations) would be extremely difficult or impossible to privatize.

Psychologist Dennis Fox used a number, what is now termed "Dunbar's number
Dunbar's number
Dunbar's number is suggested to be a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person...

", to take a new look at the tragedy of the commons. In a 1985 paper titled "Psychology, Ideology, Utopia, & the Commons", he stated "Edney (1980, 1981a) also argued that long-term solutions will require, among a number of other approaches, breaking down commons into smaller segments. He reviewed experimental data showing that cooperative behavior is indeed more common in smaller groups. After estimating that "the upper limit for a simple, self-contained, sustaining, well-functioning commons [sic] may be as low as 150 people" (1981a, p. 27).

Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

 has successfully advanced the growth of its ecotourism business by taking account of, and pricing for, the environmental business services consumed by pollution. The Coast Salish
Coast Salish
Coast Salish languages are a subgroup of the Salishan language family. These languages are spoken by First Nations or Native American peoples inhabiting the territory that is now the southwest coast of British Columbia around the Strait of Georgia and Washington state around Puget Sound...

 managed their natural resources in a place-based system in which families were responsible for looking after a place and its resources. Access to food was the major source of wealth and the empowerment of generosity was highly valued, so it made sense for them to take care of the resources.

The "Coasian
Coase theorem
In law and economics, the Coase theorem , attributed to Ronald Coase, describes the economic efficiency of an economic allocation or outcome in the presence of externalities. The theorem states that if trade in an externality is possible and there are no transaction costs, bargaining will lead to...

" solution to the problem is also a popular one, whereby the people formerly using the common each gain their own individual part of it instead — so it is no longer a common — and do not have to support one another so as not to deplete the resource.

In Hardin's essay, he proposed that the solution to the problem of overpopulation must be based on "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon" and result in "relinquishing the freedom to breed". Hardin discussed this topic further in a 1979 book, Managing the Commons, co-written with John A. Baden. He framed this prescription in terms of needing to restrict the "reproductive right
Reproductive rights
Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:...

" in order to safeguard all other rights
Rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

. Only one large country has adopted this policy, the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. In the essay, Hardin had rejected education as an effective means of stemming population growth. Since that time, it has been shown that increased educational and economic opportunities for women correlates well with reduced birthrates in most countries, as does economic growth in general. However, given the nature of the problem as a limit to a given common resource, economic growth resulting in a higher per capita use of the resource may more than offset the decreased population growth's effect on total resource consumption. Note, however, that this now becomes a problem of economic expectations of a given population, and the problem of birth regulation appears to be eliminated.

Application to evolutionary biology

The tragedy of the commons is referred to in studies of evolutionary biology, social evolution
Social evolution
Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor...

, sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 and behavioral ecology
Behavioral ecology
Behavioral ecology, or ethoecology, is the study of the ecological and evolutionary basis for animal behavior, and the roles of behavior in enabling an animal to adapt to its environment...

. A tragedy of the commons is brought about by selfish individuals whose genes
Gênes
Gênes is the name of a département of the First French Empire in present Italy, named after the city of Genoa. It was formed in 1805, when Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the Republic of Genoa. Its capital was Genoa, and it was divided in the arrondissements of Genoa, Bobbio, Novi Ligure, Tortona and...

 for selfish behaviour would therefore come to predominate, so the metaphor cannot explain how altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

 arises. This question is addressed instead by models of possible mechanisms that can give rise to "reciprocal altruism
Reciprocal altruism
In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism's fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time...

," leading to ideas like the "tit for tat
Tit for tat
Tit for tat is an English saying meaning "equivalent retaliation". It is also a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner's dilemma. It was first introduced by Anatol Rapoport in Robert Axelrod's two tournaments, held around 1980. An agent using this strategy will initially...

" rule (reciprocation). These models freed evolutionary theory from the limitations imposed by the concept of "inclusive fitness
Inclusive fitness
In evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, the inclusive fitness of an organism is the sum of its classical fitness and the number of equivalents of its own offspring it can add to the population by supporting others...

," a previous explanation for altruism, which proposed that organisms help others only to the extent that by doing so they increase the probability of passing shared genes to the next generation.

A parallel was drawn recently between the tragedy of the commons and the competing behaviour of parasites that through acting selfishly
Gene-centered view of evolution
The gene-centered view of evolution, gene selection theory or selfish gene theory holds that evolution occurs through the differential survival of competing genes, increasing the frequency of those alleles whose phenotypic effects successfully promote their own propagation, with gene defined as...

 eventually diminish or destroy their common host.

The idea has also been applied to areas such as the evolution of virulence
Virulence
Virulence is by MeSH definition the degree of pathogenicity within a group or species of parasites as indicated by case fatality rates and/or the ability of the organism to invade the tissues of the host. The pathogenicity of an organism - its ability to cause disease - is determined by its...

 or sexual conflict
Sexual conflict
Sexual conflict occurs when the two sexes have conflicting optimal fitness strategies concerning reproduction, particularly the mode and frequency of mating, leading to an evolutionary arms race between males and females. The conflict encompasses the actions and behaviors of both sexes to influence...

, where males may fatally harm females when competing for matings. It is also raised as a question in studies of social insects, where scientists wish to understand why insect workers do not undermine the "common good" by laying eggs of their own and causing a breakdown of the society.

The idea of evolutionary suicide
Evolutionary suicide
Evolutionary suicide is an evolutionary mechanism where adaptation at the level of the individual results in a situation where the entire population goes extinct...

, where adaptation at the level of the individual causes the whole species or population to be driven extinct, can be seen as an extreme form of an evolutionary tragedy of the commons.

The commons dilemma



The commons dilemma is a specific class of social dilemma
Social dilemma
Social dilemmas are situations in which collective interests are at odds with private interests. Such situations arise when faced with prioritizing either short-term selfish interests or the long-term interests of a group, organization, or society. Many of the most challenging issues, from the...

 in which people's short-term selfish interests are at odds with long-term group interests and the common good
Common good
The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all members of a given community...

. In academia, a range of related terminology has also been used as shorthand for the theory or aspects of it, including resource dilemma, take-some dilemma, and common pool resource.

Commons dilemma researchers have studied conditions under which groups and communities are likely to under- or over-harvest common resources in both the laboratory and field. Research programs have concentrated on a number of motivational, strategic, and structural factors that might be conducive to management of commons.

In game theory
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

, which constructs mathematical models for individuals' behavior in strategic situations, the corresponding "game", developed by the ecologist Garrett Hardin
Garrett Hardin
Garrett James Hardin was an American ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation and whose concept of the tragedy of the commons brought attention to "the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment"...

, is known as the Commonize Costs — Privatize Profits Game (CC–PP game).

Strategic factors

Strategic
Strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

 factors also matter in commons dilemmas. One often-studied strategic factor is the order in which people take harvests from the resource. In simultaneous play, all people harvest at the same time, whereas in sequential play people harvest from the pool according to a predetermined sequence — first, second, third, etc. There is a clear order effect in the latter games: the harvests of those who come first — the leaders — are higher than the harvest of those coming later — the followers. The interpretation of this effect is that the first players feel entitled to take more. With sequential play, individuals adopt a first come-first served rule, whereas with simultaneous play people may adopt an equality rule. Another strategic factor is the ability to build up reputations. Research found that people take less from the common pool in public situations than in anonymous private situations. Moreover, those who harvest less gain greater prestige and influence within their group.

Structural factors

Much research has focused on when and why people would like to structurally rearrange the commons to prevent a tragedy. Hardin stated in his analysis of the tragedy of the commons that "Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all." One of the proposed solutions is to appoint a leader to regulate access to the common. Groups are more likely to endorse a leader when a common resource is being depleted and when managing a common resource is perceived as a difficult task. Groups prefer leaders who are elected, democratic, and prototypical of the group, and these leader types are more successful in enforcing cooperation. There is a general aversion to autocratic leadership
Leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

, although it may be an effective solution, possibly because of the fear of power abuse and corruption.

The provision of rewards and punishments may also be effective in preserving common resources. Selective punishments for overuse can be effective in promoting domestic water and energy conservation — for example, through installing water and electricity meters in houses. Selective rewards work, provided that they are open to everyone. An experimental carpool lane in the Netherlands failed because car commuters did not feel they were able to organize a carpool. The rewards do not have to be tangible. In Canada there is a movement to put "smiley faces" on electricity bills if you are below the average for your class. Much field research on commons dilemmas has combined solutions obtained in experimental research. Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom is an American political economist. She was awarded the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson, for "her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons." She was the first, and to date, the only woman to win the prize in...

, who was awarded 2009's Nobel Prize of Economics for her work on the issue, and her colleagues looked at how real-world communities manage communal resources, such as fisheries, land irrigation systems, and farmlands, and they identified a number of factors conducive to successful resource management. One factor is the resource itself; resources with definable boundaries (e.g., land) can be preserved much more easily. A second factor is resource dependence; there must be a perceptible threat of resource depletion, and it must be difficult to find substitutes. The third is the presence of a community; small and stable populations with a thick social network and social norms promoting conservation do better. A final condition is that there be appropriate community-based rules and procedures in place with built-in incentives for responsible use and punishments for overuse.

See also

  • The commons
    The commons
    The commons is terminology referring to resources that are owned in common or shared between or among communities populations. These resources are said to be "held in common" and can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains public property and...

  • Diner's dilemma
    Diner's dilemma
    In game theory, the Unscrupulous diner's dilemma is an n-player prisoner's dilemma. The situation imagined is that several individuals go out to eat, and prior to ordering they agree to split the check equally between all of them. Each individual must now choose whether to order the expensive or...

  • Enlightened self-interest
    Enlightened self-interest
    Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others , ultimately serve their own self-interest....

  • Free rider problem
    Free rider problem
    In economics, collective bargaining, psychology, and political science, a free rider is someone who consumes a resource without paying for it, or pays less than the full cost. The free rider problem is the question of how to limit free riding...

  • Inverse commons (also known as "the cornucopia of the commons")
  • Khazzoom–Brookes postulate
  • "The Market for Lemons
    The Market for Lemons
    "The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism" is a 1970 paper by the economist George Akerlof. It discusses information asymmetry, which occurs when the seller knows more about a product than the buyer. A lemon is an American slang term for a car that is found to be...

    "
  • Overexploitation
    Overexploitation
    Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...

  • Population control
    Population control
    Human population control is the practice of artificially altering the rate of growth of a human population.Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, usually by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including...

  • Primitive accumulation of capital
    Primitive accumulation of capital
    In Marxist economics and preceding theories, the problem of primitive accumulation of capital concerns the origin of capital, and therefore of how class distinctions between possessors and non-possessors came to be.Adam Smith's account of primitive-original accumulation depicted a peaceful...

  • Race to the bottom
    Race to the bottom
    A race to the bottom is a socio-economic concept that is argued to occur between countries as an outcome of regulatory competition, progressive taxation policies and social welfare spending...

  • Social dilemma
    Social dilemma
    Social dilemmas are situations in which collective interests are at odds with private interests. Such situations arise when faced with prioritizing either short-term selfish interests or the long-term interests of a group, organization, or society. Many of the most challenging issues, from the...

  • Social trap
    Social trap
    Social trap is a term used by psychologists to describe a situation in which a group of people act to obtain short-term individual gains, which in the long run leads to a loss for the group as a whole...

  • Tragedy of the anticommons
    Tragedy of the anticommons
    The tragedy of the anticommons is a neologism coined by Michael Heller to describe a coordination breakdown where the existence of numerous rightsholders frustrates achieving a socially desirable outcome. The term mirrors the older term tragedy of the commons used to describe coordination...

  • Tyranny of small decisions
    Tyranny of small decisions
    The tyranny of small decisions refers to a phenomenon explored in an essay by that name, published in 1966 by the American economist Alfred E. Kahn. The article describes a situation where a number of decisions, individually small in size and time perspective, cumulatively result in an outcome...



Tragedy of the commons is one of four outcomes:
Property rights Common ownership or lack of property rights
Bad outcome/tragedy Tragedy of the anticommons
Tragedy of the anticommons
The tragedy of the anticommons is a neologism coined by Michael Heller to describe a coordination breakdown where the existence of numerous rightsholders frustrates achieving a socially desirable outcome. The term mirrors the older term tragedy of the commons used to describe coordination...

Tragedy of the commons
Tragedy of the commons
The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this...

Good outcome/cornucopia normal case Inverse commons


The prevalent outcome depends on the details of the situation. The opposite outcome to the tragedy is the "comedy of the commons" or "Inverse commons", in which network effect
Network effect
In economics and business, a network effect is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it.The classic example is the telephone...

s or other causes enhance the value of rivalrous resources
Rivalry (economics)
In economics, rivalry is a characteristic of a good. A good can be placed along a continuum ranging from rivalrous to non-rival. The same characteristic is sometimes referred to as subtractable or non-subtractable . A rival good is a good whose consumption by one consumer prevents simultaneous...

 because of the lack of regulation or private ownership.

Further reading


External links

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