Tragedy of the commons

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The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from 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 to happen. Hardin’s Commons Theory is cited to support the notion of sustainable development, meshing economic growth and environmental protection and has had an effect on current issues, including debate over global warming. Central to Hardin’s article is an example of a hypothetical situation based on medieval land tenure in Europe, of herders sharing a common parcel of land, on which they are entitled to let their cows graze. In Hardin’s example, it is in each herder’s interest to put succeeding cows he acquires onto the land, even if the quality of the common is temporarily or permanently damaged, through over grazing. The herder receives all benefits from an additional cow while damage to the common is shared by entire group. If all herders make this rational economic decision, the common will be depleted or destroyed to the detriment of all. The tragedy of the commons is an economics theory, according to which individuals, acting independently according to one’s self-interest, behave contrary to whole group’s long-term best interests by depleting a common resource. ‘Commons’ can include the atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, national parks, office refrigerator and any other shared resource. Tragedy of the commons has relevance in analyzing behaviour in fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, game theory, politics, taxation and sociology. Some see ‘tragedy’ as an example of emergent behaviour. Hardin was interested in the problem of human population growth. In his essay, he focused on use of larger resources like Earth’s atmosphere and oceans and pointing out ‘negative commons’ of pollution. The ‘tragedy’ is not in the word’s conventional...
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