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Tragedy of the Commons

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The "Tragedy of the Commons" is one of the most influential scientific publications ever yet it is widely misunderstood. The short presentation provides a critical appraisal and links to read more.

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Tragedy of the Commons

  1. 1. “The Tragedy of the Commons”
  2. 2. “The Tragedy of the Commons”• Published 1968 by biologist Garret Hardin• Among the most influential scientific publications"The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture apasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman willtry to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons... theinherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize hisgain....
  3. 3. “The Tragedy of the Commons”• Published 1968 by biologist Garret Hardin• Among the most influential scientific publications• Frequently cited in favor of privatization of public propertyCriticism:• Historically inaccurate - “it is difficult to find a passage ofcomparable length and fame that contains so many errors asthe one quoted” (Partha Dasgupta)• “The “Tragedy of the Commons” is one of the modern world’smost dangerous myths.” (George Monbiot)• Overuse of the commons in traditional societies was generallyprevented through a sophisticated structure of norms practicedby the respective communities. There is no evidence ofsystematic overgrazing.• The “tragedy” Hardin describes is in fact not a tragedy ofcommon property but rather a tragedy of open accessregimes.
  4. 4. “The Tragedy of the Commons”• The “tragedy” Hardin describes is in fact not a tragedy ofcommon property but rather a tragedy of open accessregimes.• In later work, Hardin referred to the “Tragedy of theUnmanaged (Unregulated) Commons”.• The problems identified by Hardin apply to expansiveresources that are unregulated or where regulation is difficult toenforce: oceans, atmosphere, expansive tracts of forest orrangeland, water resources• Essentially, he describes a Free Rider Problem• Hardins actual topic was population control: he interpreted(excessive) reproduction as a Free Rider problem. Thisargument is hardly ever taken seriously or even discussed.
  5. 5. “The Tragedy of the Commons”To read more• Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons (1968)• Achim Lerch, The Tragedy of the “Tragedy of the Commons”• Elinor Ostrom, Coping with Tragedies of the Commons• George Monbiot, The Tragedy of Enclosure• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons• http://p2pfoundation.net/Tragedy_of_the_Commons

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